Jose Altuve, Doc Gooden
ESNY Graphiic, Getty Images

New York Mets legend Doc Gooden, along with other respected baseball people, helps bring sanity to the Houston Astros-Jose Altuve storm.

Rich Mancuso

Analyze the following quote and observation from a long-time and high-ranking baseball scout, and take it from there:

“I was sitting behind home plate when Jose Altuve hit the game-winning home run off Aroldis Chapman. The irony is that Chapman had no command of his fastball that inning. He couldn’t throw it in the ocean. He was throwing mostly all sliders, the only pitch that he could throw for a strike. Altuve just missed the slider on the first pitch of the at-bat. The pitch that Jose hit for the home run was a center-cut slider, right down Broadway. Obviously, Altuve still had to respect Chapman’s 100 mph heater. The most damage against pitchers in normal circumstances happen on mistakes, pitches that are below average and usually over the white.”

This should calm the storm a bit about that Joe Altuve October bomb, a deciding pitch in 2019, not 2017. A pitch that made the difference and the Astros once again eliminated the Yankees in October.

No talk about a buzzer. No analyzing a change of jersey after the home run and proceeding to conduct a postgame interview.

No, these words simply analyze the mechanics of baseball, the way it should be. However, this sign-stealing scandal, one that will not go away anytime soon, is leading to a different name and story five weeks before the start of the 2020 season.

ESNY contacted former and current players. The overall consensus has the Astros as public enemy No. 1 and wants to see the 2017 World Series vacated. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has granted immunity to players, which has opened up another door that deals with the powerful MLB Players Association.

More about Altuve, a ballplayer who has become baseball’s most electric villain:

“I’ve known Altuve well from age 16 in Venezuela,” said the scout. “He always could really hit. I talked about hitting Jose’ personally during the last WBC. He’s super-intelligent, really studies and understands hitting along with an incredible work ethic. He’s a natural hitter and a genuine batting champion. I know that he didn’t need any illegal advantage to be a great hitter.”

But there is doubt, suspicion, and there will be with all the evidence of technology and a report from the commissioner that leads to all of this.

“The Astros illegal, real-time, electronic sign-stealing is reprehensible and beyond defense,” he said. “ It definitely impacted games manifesting in serious fraud to MLB and more specifically to all of the teams that were unfairly penalized by the Astros activity.

“I don’t applaud Commissioner Manfred, but rather am perplexed by his inactivity until he was forced to act because of the article in The Athletic. There were plenty of previous complaints that went unanswered, that were seemingly slipped under the rug. We need to get an accounting of this delay in action up until the point MLB was forced to act while under the gun.”

And, you can argue about penalties for specific players, but they were legally offered immunity. We must accept that fact.

But the perception, and with a season that will be different, is that term of real-time. Baseball has suffered through its fair share of cheaters. Worse yet, technology has changed the entire dynamic.

Dwight “Doc” Gooden, perhaps second-best pitcher in New York Mets history, knows something about throwing the right or wrong pitch. On opposing sides, the late Rusty Staub would always get hold of a Gooden fastball.

Facing the Cubs, Gooden did not tip pitches. The Cubs could never hit the Gooden heater.

Gooden, a two-time World Series champion (one with Mets, one with Yankees), said, “Cheating has always been a part of the game. Technology, unfortunately, made it easier “ During my time, the third base coach and first base coach tried to get the signs and motion to the hitter.”

And his consensus, like many, sounds familiar.

“For me, I’m ready for them to move on from this,” Gooden said.

But this issue will linger. The Astros and a scandal will not leave the ballpark as quick as a record number of home runs that have been hit out of parks the past few years.

Baseball’s perception stinks to the high heavens at the moment. And there could be repercussions on the field. Altuve? He could be a target.

“Being a former pitcher, most of the guys who do the talking are not going to do anything,” Gooden said. “All the tough guys are saying what they are going to do. If you want to hit a guy, you just do it.”

And the consensus is that the scandal is not worse than the steroid era. Baseball eventually recovered and went back to normal with strict testing of PEDs.

But that bad perception could hurt attendance at ballparks that are already on a decline.

Former Mets pitcher Carlos Torres said, “This eclipses the steroid scandal. It’s not an individual, it’s not one person, it’s an organization that supported it.”

Pete Alonso, LFGM T-Shirt

Torres, currently a free agent, believes and supports the players union. Cheating, he also says, has been a part of the game and real-time is the culprit.

“Players will always cheat in every sport forever,” he said. “This is an organization (Astros) who helped their players cheat, who devised a way. People knew about it in the organization.”

“MLB should cut back on a lot of instant replay and transform it. They have no way to police it with all these rules in real-time. These are the issues in real time.”

Rules, he said, are a part of the game with replay and video monitors. Torres said the game can’t go backward and eliminate the entire replay system.

“The organization should be the one held responsible for what they did,” said Torres. “This eclipses the steroid scandal because it was not one individual. It was an organization and the owner (Jim Krane) should not be granted immunity.”

But the players were legally offered immunity. We must accept that fact. Many of those players, though, will forever wear a scarlet letter.

“Also, I believe that the responsibility rests with leadership, manager, GM, and including ownership,” said that longtime scout. “It seems that not only didn’t the Commissioner respond to previous allegations from numerous clubs, but ownership also didn’t respond. It is disingenuous for Mr. Crane to say he wasn’t aware of a potentially illegal situation, but remarkably was able to escape any personal censorship.”

Basically, the issue will linger. That Houston Astros championship remains in the books and Jose Altuve will move forward with his career. The buzzer is not the issue.

Baseball, thanks to many nagging questions that continue to linger with answers that are still to come, is the issue.

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