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Thiel on bitterness in baseball after Astros scandal: 'I've never seen anything like this'

Jeff Roberson
AP Photo
Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander crosses his arms as he stands with his teammates at the start of their first spring training baseball workout of the season Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla.

As spring training gets underway for the Mariners and other teams in Major League Baseball, a lot of anger is being directed at the Houston Astros. They were found to have cheated by using technology to steal pitching signs. This happened throughout the 2017 season, when they won the World Series, and in the 2018 season. KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel talked about the fallout from the scandal with Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick.


Thiel said the fact that this scandal has pitted player versus player is unusual. And it's something he's never seen before in sports. 

"This is really strange because typically it's owners versus players or, you know, maybe team versus team," he said. "But this cheating thing has really irked Major League Baseball players up to and including the best player in the game, Mike Trout of the Angels, who ripped the Astros this week at spring training for cheating this long and wanted these players punished.

"That's, of course, the hot button issue. The players were given immunity in exchange for information."


Thiel said the use of technology has both helped and hindered the game of baseball.

"You're getting lots of video information. You're getting a lot of analytical data that helps make pitchers more efficient and helps make hitters more efficient," he said. "The problem is unintended consequences. No one was thinking about using this video technology as a cheating device.

"Well, that's what baseball is dealing with right now. They need to come up with some kind of legislation to stop what's going on." 


In a recent story on The Athletic website, Royals General Manager Dayton Moore was asked what has changed in baseball. He said, "10 years ago, when I had an all-hands meeting prior to spring training, I could see everyone in the room and I knew what their job was. Now, I can't."

Thiel called that "a remarkable revelation." He said Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto also was quoted in the article.

"Jerry was answering the question about whether he would know if his team cheated. And he said, 'Well, yeah, I think so.' But he ultimately said, 'You know, I can't be sure.'"


Thiel said the league is working on changes, but it's unclear when they might be put in place.

"The commissioner's office and ownership and the union are meeting to try to codify rules that would prevent this from happening. And if rules are violated, there would be punishments for the individual players who were caught.

"I think they want to try to get it ready for the 2020 season — but certainly for the future. It's way overdue in baseball to put up some guardrails to keep things going forward."

In the meantime, he acknowledged there's a lot of bitterness and bad blood in baseball. 

"I've never seen anything like this. And baseball is embarrassed. It's hurt. It's damaged. They've got to get it fixed fast."

Never miss an episode again. Subscribe to Sports With Art Thiel with iTunes orGoogle Play now. You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.