SARASOTA, FLORIDA — Inside the baseball operations center at the Orioles’ spring-training complex for the last two weeks, nearly every television has been tuned to coverage of the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal that has roiled rival players and made for a fiery spring training across the game.
There’s been discipline for the 2017 scheme for the Astros, which cost their general manager Jeff Luhnow plus three managers (A.J. Hinch, Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran) their respective jobs for their roles in the cheating scheme during their World Series year. Star players such as Mike Trout and Aaron Judge have sounded off, and there have been daily fits of fury from the Los Angeles Dodgers team which lost to the Astros in that 2017 World Series.
But all that feels far away from Orioles camp, where only a handful of players were in the big leagues in 2017. The only time the scandal has been addressed has been by executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, who along with assistant general manager Sig Mejdal came from the Astros. Elias and Mejdal haven’t been implicated and are confident the fallout won’t reach Baltimore.
“You do read about it and see it a lot, but there’s just so much work to do here that we’re aware of what’s going on, but our main focus is with the Orioles,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
“I think guys have drawn their own conclusion. We don’t have a ton of experience in the league. We have a lot of guys who only have been playing parts of a couple years and they haven’t been around a long time, so I think guys form their own opinions but it is what it is. We just don’t have a ton of outspoken guys.”
The players talk about it among themselves, they say, but camp has been focused on their goal of trying to get better individually and build the next contender for the Orioles.
“I think that it’s just not as prevalent in this locker room because none of these guys really faced them then. It wasn’t really a big part of their careers, so I don’t think that it makes reporters eager to go ask questions to them if they don’t have a first-hand knowledge or first-hand experience of it," veteran starter Alex Cobb said. "I think that’s all it is. I don’t know why. You should ask yourself that question.”
Cobb doesn’t believe the teams that are being consumed by the scandal are necessarily distracted by it, indicating that it might be a relief to get a break from the spring training roster battle conversations and storylines in exchange for a story that has a wide audience around the game.
But spending so much time together, even if they’re playing in a different competitive stratosphere at present than the Astros or Dodgers or New York Yankees, the allegations against the Astros are bound to come up.
“We talk about it,” Cobb said. “A lot.”
Reliever Shawn Armstrong, who is one of the more tenured big leaguers in the Orioles’ bullpen, said it’s hard to ignore.
“You see it on the news, you see Houston stuff, and I think as far as the whole of baseball itself, look at the fanbase and what they have to say, and the people that have retired — C.C. Sabathia and the faces of baseball coming out and talking about it, David Ortiz speaking on it yesterday,” Armstrong said.
“It affects it everywhere, not just in one Dodger locker room, Houston locker room, just between those two. It changed the game as a whole. You look on the TV, you look at Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, day-in and day-out you see people talking about it. I think everybody’s remarks as far as that goes speaks for itself and how it’s changed the game and people’s views of the game. We try and stay [in] the locker room here and not really worry about it. Everybody talks about it. Everybody discusses it. Everybody sees it every single day, and in the grand scheme, everybody kind of wants it to just go away. But at the same time, I don’t want to say cheating, but that can’t just go away. Something has to be done.”
Around the horn
Chandler Shepherd, who starts the spring training opener Saturday against the Atlanta Braves, is excited for the opportunity to continue to show the Orioles what he can do as a starter, he said. … Left-hander Wade LeBlanc and right-hander Alex Cobb will start Sunday and Monday for the Orioles, Hyde said. … Hyde watched live batting practice pitched by Cobb, Miguel Castro, and Kohl Stewart Friday, and said all three were impressive.
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