Welcome to The Shapkins Defender, where I inhale your toxic screeds and spit out the fresh oxygen of optimism, like a tree that kind of understands WAR. (Just don’t ask me to explain it.)
By now, you’re surely aware of the Astros sign-stealing scandal and the recent fallout. I don’t want to spend too much time summarizing it, both because it’s been written about extensively by people with actual sources and also because new stuff seems to be coming out by the second. But the Astros definitely cheated in 2017 with the garbage can stuff, leading to a whole bunch of people being suspended and fired and probably more penalties still to come.
What I do want to dwell on, because I’ve seen it casually mentioned on Twitter a few times, is how the Jays are connected to all this. As far as I know, there are two strands to follow.
First, there’s the Hudgens thing. Dave Hudgens was the Astros hitting coach during the 2017 cheating season. The Blue Jays hired him as a bench coach after the 2018 season. As Shi Davidi reports, Hudgens is not mentioned by name in the report. As many have pointed out, he must have known something was going on. If you can hear all that banging on the TV broadcast, he could surely hear it in the dugout. But MLB seems to think that Cora and certain players were the primary actors in the banging scheme, with Houston’s manager and general manager getting in trouble for not stopping it. So, it seems MLB didn’t think Hudgens was connected in any serious way. That might change if more information comes out, of course. But for now, any suggestion he is somehow to blame would just be conjecture, as far as I can tell.
The second strand is more journalistic. I first came across the Blue Jays connection in this piece from NBC Sports that mentioned the Jays along with a bunch of other teams, and linked to another piece in The Ringer, which mentioned the Jays while linking to another piece in Bleacher Report, which was published back in October, well before Mike Fiers went public and started the whole chain reaction that’s still ongoing. Here is the only mention of the Jays in that article.
“Predictably, nobody in the game is willing to publicly finger those who were cheating or those whom they believe might be cheating. But given assurances of anonymity, several league sources indicate the Astros, Dodgers, Red Sox, New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks have been especially adept with technological surveillance. One source mentions the Cubs and Washington Nationals dabble a bit ‘but not as much as others.’ Another source says the Indians, while still another notes the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers once were suspected as well.”
That’s it! The Jays “once were suspected”. Even these anonymous sources aren’t really pinning anything concrete on the Jays. And that brings me to this quote from Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated…
“Two sources familiar with the investigation, which lasted three months and included more than 70,000 e-mails and 60 interviews, said various Astros personnel told MLB investigators about eight other teams who used technology to steal signs in 2017 or 2018–such was the culture of the time. Only one of those teams, the Boston Red Sox, is under a known investigation as a result of information baseball found credible.”
Seems to me like the Astros tried the “everybody was doing it” defence, MLB looked into it and didn’t really find anything to implicate the Blue Jays. Or if it did, it hasn’t said so publicly.
So, any of this could change if more information comes to light. But as far as I know, that’s it. If it’s proven that the Jays did some shady shit, I will happily grab a torch and pitchfork and join everyone else in the streets. I don’t want to root for cheaters. But until then, the Jays connection seems to mostly be gossip, hearsay and conjecture.
If you have evidence of the Jays cheating, send it to me at [email protected] or @darraghfilm on Twitter, or just leave a comment below.