TAMPA — The sign-stealing scandal heard ’round the world, starring the Astros, sent a warning to every baseball operations department in this tight-knit industry: Get your house in order.
The onus falls upon each team to decide how much to get their words in order. And Brian Cashman, in taking his turn Friday to poke his primary rival of recent vintage, put his name on the line with his promises of pinstriped purity.
It’s all good, as long as the Yankees are as good at obeying the rules as their venerable general manager vows.
“I’ve worked in New York long enough to know, and I’ve tried to create the culture in our environment with our personnel — players, support staff, coaches — that there are no secrets,” Cashman said at George M. Steinbrenner Field, after the Yankees completed another pitchers’ and catchers’ workout. “If anything is going on that isn’t above board, it’s going to come out. It doesn’t matter what location you happen to be operating in. That’s obviously why the Houston Astros are going through what they’re going through.
“I’ll continue to push that environment here, which is do everything the right way. We’re going to try to continue to gravitate to the best players we possibly can and put them in the best position we can to have them succeed. Create an environment where we’re doing everything in our power to follow the rules and do it the right way, and then take our chances and live with the result after that.”
The vow came off more as confident than defiant, and for an example of how defiance can get you in trouble, think back to last Oct. 17 at Yankee Stadium, a couple of hours before American League Championship Series Game 4, when Astros manager A.J. Hinch uttered this memorable dare in the wake of allegations that the Astros illegally stole signs earlier that series: “We have people that are unnamed, or you guys have sources that are giving you information. I suggest they put their name by it if they’re so passionate about it to comment about my team or my players.”
That, as the kids say, didn’t age well. Or as Cashman said on Friday, “If it wasn’t for Mike Fiers, no one maybe ever would have known [about the Astros’ cheating in 2017].”
Hinch is now suspended and unemployed along with his former boss Jeff Luhnow, and the same fate will very likely hit any other GM or manager whose players engaged in such high-tech chicanery.
Look, no sports team — or company of any kind, really — will pass the strictest purity test. Like every GM who worked in the 1990s and 2000s, Cashman employed players who used illegal performance-enhancing drugs; the Yankees won the 2000 World Series thanks in large part to the contributions of Roger Clemens, who allegedly used steroids that season.
And while one can support affording a second chance to players disciplined for domestic violence, with that decision comes the responsibility of tolerating and even welcoming dissent. The Astros failed that test miserably when their assistant GM Brandon Taubman verbally harassed a female reporter who had subtly expressed disagreement with Houston’s 2018 acquisition of Roberto Osuna as he completed a domestic-violence suspension. If the currently suspended Domingo German makes it back to the team, he will join Aroldis Chapman as two domestic-violence offenders on the Yankees. Cashman and the Yankees must ensure that not only Chapman and German get to work in peace, but their critics do, as well.
Yet in this heightened moment focused on the old-school crime of sign-stealing using new-wave methodology, no one wants to get grouped in with these Astros. The 2018 Red Sox, under investigation by Rob Manfred, should find out shortly whether they’ll be subject to such a taint.
No secrets and lies to be exposed here, said Cashman, who then professed a desire for his club to move forward, beyond its anger with the Astros. Curious sorts will keep looking back, though. Will the Yankees withstand the scrutiny? Their baseball boss says so, and Cashman appreciates as well as anyone the vast downside of being wrong on this one.
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