The first week-plus of 2020 Spring Training was consumed by the Houston Astros and their response to the sign-stealing scandal, along with Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred inadvertently inciting the matter with his remarks.
Astros owner Jim Crane, several of their players and Manfred came under fire and were the subject of pointed criticism on a daily basis. For some, including Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer, it was an extension of prior frustrations.
Bauer has long alleged the Astros were guilty of misconduct, ranging from using wearable buzzers to utilizing foreign substances in order to improve spin rate. When Bauer faced the Los Angeles Dodgers this week, he began his relief appearance by tipping pitches to Matt Beaty.
The natural assumption was Bauer did so because of the Dodgers’ connection to the Astros stealing signs during the 2017 World Series, but he dismissed that as being the case, per Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer:
“It was an inside story that I can’t tell you guys, but just having fun, joking around,” Bauer said Wednesday.
“No, it had nothing to do with the Dodgers necessarily,” Bauer said. “It wasn’t, like, team specific. Like I said, it was just joking around and having some fun. I did it, actually, twice last year in the season, something that I’ll probably do at some point again this season. I think there is a lot of interesting outcomes that can come from it psychologically and competitively and stuff. Spring training is a time when you work on things.”
Beaty didn’t appear to immediately notice Bauer’s gestures, and the at-bat ended with a line drive to deep center field. Beaty hit a home run in his previous at-bat — though off Sonny Gray.
While a handful of Dodgers players voiced their frustration, anger and disappointment with the Astros and Manfred in the early going, they also emphasized keeping focused on the 2020 season. The start of Cactus League play seemingly aided in moving past the saga.
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