WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - At some point this spring, the Astros sign-stealing scandal will dissipate into the background and earn only occasional mention. Not yet, though. The saga that has engulfed the baseball world for weeks continues to be front and center at camps across Florida and Arizona, especially this particular camp that houses both of the 2019 World Series participants.
It didn’t help that Thursday’s press conference outside the Houston clubhouse, in which owner Jim Crane and stars Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve offered token apologies but seemed to stay a little too much on script, wasn’t well received by many people around the sport.
To that list, you can add Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, who today spoke as emphatically as anyone about his dissatisfaction, not only with what the Astros did but how they’ve addressed it since getting caught.
“Someone has got to say the word over there: ‘Cheated.’ That’s important to me,” Rizzo said. “And for the sport to move on, which is what I’m most concerned about, we have to make sure that all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed on this investigation before we end it.”
Though Major League Baseball’s investigation found the Astros guilty of electronically stealing signs only during their 2017 championship season and early in the 2018 season, the Nationals were concerned enough about their counterpart’s reputation to take extra measures to combat it going into last fall’s World Series.
“I have no proof of what, if anything, they did in 2019,” Rizzo said. “We assumed they were, and we prepared diligently for it.”
That the Nationals proceeded to win the World Series, becoming the first team in major professional sports history to go 4-0 on the road in a best-of-seven series, added to the sense of satisfaction they felt afterward, knowing what they now know.
“We did it with character, dignity and did it the right way,” Rizzo said. “We feel good about that.”
How does the longtime GM confident know his team did everything on the up and up?
“It’s contingent on leadership to guide franchises,” he said. “And I know for a fact that could not and would not happen with the Washington Nationals, because I would not allow it to happen with the Washington Nationals. We certainly take pride in that, the way we conduct our business and our process, we try to do things the right way for the good of the game and its entirety.”
Rizzo spoke today to a group of reporters that included several national media members who spent Thursday among the throng that covered the Astros press conference. It still paled in comparison to the attention he felt his team deserved.
“One of the problems I have with it, it’s opening day (of spring training) 2020 and there’s 50 media outlets here, and 47 of them are for the Astros who cheated to win the World Series, and there’s three here with the current reigning World Series champions,” he said. “And that’s not right.”