The Houston Astros have become a public punching bag for opposing players and teams as they have faced criticism on a daily basis since pitchers and catchers began reporting for Spring Training last week.
That’s held particularly true in the clubhouses of the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, two teams that had fierce battles with the Astros en route to their 2017 World Series title. Though, the likes of Kris Bryant and Mike Trout have also spoke candidly about the matter.
From the Dodgers, Cody Bellinger had the most pointed criticism. He alleged the Astros stole a championship from the Dodgers, cheated for three seasons, and punctuated his remarks by sharing a belief Jose Altuve illegitimately won the American League MVP Award over Aaron Judge.
That led to an impassioned retort and defense of Altuve by Carlos Correa. Now Lance McCullers Jr. has touched on the subject, intimating teams like the Dodgers and others who won’t face the Astros this season are emboldened by that factor, via Sam Fortier of The Washington Post:
“[The teams talking trash are] going to have to play us,” McCullers told The Washington Post. “Except for the guys who are popping off the most.”
“Those guys aren’t going to have to face us, which is maybe why they feel like they can speak like that,” McCullers continued. “But we’re moving on. That’s not what people may want to hear, but we stood here as men and we addressed [the scandal]. … We’re just looking forward to playing baseball again.”
McCullers’ comments appear to most prominently apply to Bryant and Bellinger, and by extension the Chicago Cubs and Dodgers. Yu Darvish has also been hypercritical of the Astros’ response to criticism, and Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis had strong words for them.
Washington Nationals infielder Howie Kendrick additionally suggested they stopped addressing other players, but the Astros will face the reigning World Series champions this season. Houston of course will also play the New York Yankees, which will allow them to settle matters with Judge on the field.
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