CHICAGO – With a quiet offseason, a lot of the chatter around the Cubs Convention this weekend was the chatter that’s consuming of all of Major League Baseball at the moment.
The harsh punishments handed down by the league to the Houston Astros after an investigation into sign-stealing led to the firing of that team’s manager and general manager while putting into question their success over the last three seasons. Two other managers in the league, Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran, lost their jobs due to their involvement in the scandal in Houston.
Naturally, many at the Sheraton Grand Hotel were chatting about the latest controversy in the MLB, which may be one of the biggest in the game since the steroid era. That included the Cubs themselves, especially team president Theo Epstein, who lauded the league for their strength in handing down strong punishments.
“MLB proactively built a robust and powerful department of investigations that was needed in order to look into issues like this and to be able to come to some conclusions to allow some discipline and preserve the integrity of the game, so we applaud those efforts,” said Epstein. “I’m glad MLB took those steps.”
Epstein told reporters that the team is spoken to about playing the game with integrity before each year begins at spring training in Mesa, and is confident that his team hasn’t engaged in similar conduct.
“I was proud of Anthony Rizzo yesterday when he said with 100 percent certainty that we play within the rules and I echo those thoughts,” said Epstein.
Since they would meet only in interleague play, the Cubs only faced the Astros twice in the AJ Hinch era, with each series taking place in Houston. They took 2-of-3 in 2016 then lost 2-of-3 this past year, but Kyle Schwarber said he feels worse for those teams that met Houston in American League play or the postseason.
“To hear this is definitely upsetting just because I can’t imagine how some of the other teams feel that played them in that playoff series knowing that this is a real thing and knowing that it was an advantage,” said Schwarber. “For that to happen, it’s a shame. Obviously, MLB has done their thing, punished the team and the individuals who were taking a part of it but it just should be in our game.”
After this, it might not be to the level it was in Houston, but the constant questions of whether a team is stealing signs or not figures to continue through 2020 and beyond.
“It’s something new for us but people are going to do stuff, and you’re going to hear it now, obviously. But when you do hear it, you’ve got to be like, ‘wait, are they really doing something,'” said Heyward. “But just go play and MLB will figure out how to handle it.”
Not doing it is probably the best place to start.