TEMPE, Ariz. – Max Stassi says he wishes he had done “the right thing” when he learned about the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scheme late in their World Series championship season in 2017.
The former Astros catcher's new teammates with the Los Angeles Angels also aren't happy with their AL West rivals as they report to spring training.
Stassi apologized Wednesday for his minor part in the Astros' cheating after he was recalled by the club in August 2017. Stassi played in just 14 games that year and didn't participate in the postseason, yet still won a World Series title as part of their 40-man roster.
“It was wrong,” Stassi said. “I feel terrible. I think looking back, every single person that was a part of that team or in that clubhouse regrets what was going on, and if we could all go back, I’m sure we never even would have thought of the idea.”
Stassi said he was “surprised” to learn the extent of the Astros' schemes when he joined the club late that season. He also said he was unaware of any sign-stealing by the Astros in subsequent seasons. Stassi was traded to Los Angeles late last season.
“I saw what was going on (in 2017),” said Stassi, who went up and down from the minors with Houston from 2013 until 2017. "When you’re a lower man on the totem pole, you just show up and you go out there and play. You apologize to those around the game, the people that were affected by it. The fans, coaches, especially the kids who look up to us. You’re supposed to set an example and do the right thing, and we didn’t do that.”
Stassi didn't specify whether he felt the cheating had helped him personally: “I don’t know if it technically helps. Everyone can use their own judgment. But it was wrong.”
Angels left-hander Andrew Heaney and right-hander Taylor Cole ripped the Astros when the Angels' pitchers and catchers reported to spring training Wednesday. Heaney was profanely vehement in his criticisms of the Astros' actions and their response after being caught.
“They sure ... need to do more than what they already did,” Heaney said. “That was terrible. I understand they are going to go get their (story) in order and they are going to have their thing to say, and they are going to hide behind the commissioner's report and whatever, but I don't think that's good enough.”
Cole, who has a 6.08 ERA in nine career appearances against Houston, admits he was upset immediately after hearing about the Astros' elaborate cheating schemes.
“I'm a guy that has been up and down several times over the last couple of years, and when you face a team like these guys and you start to hear what has come out, it's just affected a lot of people's lives,” Cole said. “I knew the repercussions of that — what happened after some of those outings. We'll just leave it at that.”
The Angels' views have been echoed around baseball as teams report to work this week in Arizona and Florida.
Oakland manager Bob Melvin, whose Athletics won 97 games each of the past two seasons for second place in the AL West behind Houston, said the A’s made calls to Major League Baseball about their sign-stealing concerns.
“I think MLB has done the right thing to move forward and handle it how they’ve handled it,” Melvin said. “I don’t think anybody was too happy about a lot of things that you’ve seen come out, and at some point in time we have to move past it.
“Nobody’s happy about it, whether it’s an individual, whether it’s a team, whether it’s the Yankees they were playing in the postseason, whether it was us, other teams in our division. I think everybody kind of was fed up with it. We move forward and hopefully it’s taken care of."
Heaney has nine career starts against Houston, more than any opponent except the Texas Rangers, going 3-3 with a 3.28 ERA. He didn't face the Astros in 2017 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
“I'm not going to make excuses for those guys,” Heaney said. “I know how it is. You get caught up in something. I’m sure they look back now and say, ‘Oh (expletive) ,we really took that overboard.’ But I think that somebody in that locker room had to have enough insight to say, ‘This is not OK.’”
Heaney echoed other players' acknowledgement that the Astros' affinity for sign-stealing was a “poorly kept secret" in baseball. He also doesn't think sign-stealing will be eradicated by the penalties given to Houston.
“I still don’t think we really know everything that happened,” Heaney said. “I don’t think necessarily everybody wants us to know everything that was going on. That’s the tough part.”
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Mesa, Arizona, contributed to this report.
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