MESA, Ariz. – Saturday’s media session with Kris Bryant wasn’t the first time – nor will it be the last – a Cubs’ player openly admonished the Houston Astros for the recent cheating scandal that’s cast a shadow over camps on both coasts. It was certainly, however, the angriest a player has sounded since pitchers and catchers reported last Monday.
“What a disgrace that was,” Bryant said. “Just watching their apology yesterday, too, there’s just no sincerity, there’s no genuineness when it comes to it. I certainly know that if I messed up big in that way, I’d be the first one to let you know just how big of a mess up it was. It’s just hard to believe, it really is. It’s sad.”
Bryant predicts Houston is in for a long season: “I mean, I’m sure they’ll [get hit by pitches]. I’m sure they will,” he said. “Pitchers aren’t happy about it. Obviously you don’t want anyone to get hurt, but you know, I think if teams are going about it in the right way, and if you do get hit, you’re not going after people’s heads and stuff like that. I think they’re definitely going to experience stuff like that this year.”
What started as a high-grade sign-stealing scandal has blossomed into a full-blown crisis, fueled most recently by the apathetic mea culpas issued during the Astros’ first media availability of the season. Owner Jim Crane explicitly stated electronically stealing signs and relaying those back to the hitter in real time had no impact on the outcome of a game, and the two player representatives chosen to speak publicly – Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve – read hollow, prepared statements for less than two minutes.
“I even think that if there’s players that don’t want it, I think they’re still going through with the banging and stuff, because I really think it turned into a routine there,” he added. “And a lot of the apology yesterday was a lot about 2017. I’m pretty sure it was going on in 2018, 2019 too. And that’s just so sad, because I mean, if they didn’t get caught, they’d still be doing it. They’re only doing this apology because they got caught. There’s a lot of feelings on it. Everybody around the league is really upset, and rightfully so, because it’s really a disgrace to the game.”
The most frustrating thing, according to Bryant (and many, many other players), is that livelihoods were deeply affected by Houston’s choices. Players and coaches lost jobs in the majors, some forever because of what went on, so it’s tough to watch Crane be hit with what amounts to nothing more than a financial slap on the wrist. And, you’ll remember, the players who were actually cheating didn’t get punished – at all.
“I thought the whole punishment was weak,” he said. “They got fined, what, $5 million? You make that selling beers at the games now. You make that – I don’t know how many games – but you make that real quick.”
Bryant admitted he didn’t notice anything when the team played in Houston last season, but obviously he wasn’t on the mound. Still, he was visibly frustrated when speaking on the scandal, calling it a “disgrace” multiple times. It’s easy, he said, to lay off even the most devastating offspeed pitches when you know you can just sit on and tee up a fastball in the upper 90s that you know is coming. And, for the record, Bryant “absolutely” believes that the Astros were also using an in-shirt buzzer system to tip pitches as well.
“[It] just feels so wrong,” he said. “I mean, I was playing golf with my dad and I feel bad for taking a one-foot gimme putt … I personally think it’s worse than steroids. I really do. Steroids you still have to compete and hit the ball.”Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.