Following up: White Sox, Astros probably already sufficiently motivated

Oct 10, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Ryan Tepera (51) pitches against the Houston Astros during the fifth inning in game three of the 2021 ALDS at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Tepera stopped short of making an accusation that the Astros were cheating, but it’s fair to say he nestled himself comfortably in the land of insinuation with his comments after Game 3 on Sunday. He didn’t out-and-out say the stole signs or engaged in other chicanery during the first two games of the ALDS, only mentioning that they became world-famous for doing so under previous circumstances with many of the same personnel, and whatever shame that results from the word-association exercise is not his problem.

It didn’t go over well on Houston’s side, although Dusty Baker was the only one to directly engage. He was hired in part to do just that, because they weren’t his players then, but they are his players now, so he can do his job without a direct connection to the Jeff Luhnow years.

Baker was asked multiple times about Tepera’s comments and repeatedly said he “didn’t care.”

“He can say what he wants to say,” Baker said. “I never even heard his name before we played the White Sox. I’m not bothered at all by it really … Let him talk.” […]

“Those are some heavy accusations,” Baker said of Tepera’s comments. “We’re about the same runs, OPS and everything – actually better on the road than we are at home. I think they’re actually better at home than on the road. I don’t have much response.”

Alex Bregman didn’t bite with his availability, but Martin Maldonado used Twitter to spell out one of the fears of this whole sidebar:

https://twitter.com/Machete1224/status/1447607662900875272

That’s the primary objection from White Sox fans, but it’s one I don’t buy for an elimination game in a postseason. There’s no chance of sleeping dogs lying when 40,000 fans are screaming their heads off. I’d guess that managing excess motivation is more of a concern than having too little of it.

Not to say that Tepera was playing Time Chess with his comments. The risk they pose is a personal one, in that should the White Sox staff struggle at home in Game 4, they’ll have eliminated one excuse. Or, if they succeed in pushing the series back to Houston for the do-or-die Game 5, you can imagine the reception they’re going to get.

Tepera’s comments mostly struck me as an internal rallying attempt made public. Two and a half games into a series, Tepera and the White Sox bullpen figured out how to subdue a lineup that had been giving them fits. He’s staking a claim to confidence: “We can beat them, especially here,” the latter part said with a smirk. They’re going to need to take care of business in Game 4, and perhaps this helps achieve that goal, even if it raises the personal stakes for Game 5. Tepera is now known in Houston as more than his numbers.

If it doesn’t work, there will be some egg on his face. White Sox fans will also get the brunt of boasting Houstin fans, including an alarming amount who are a little too comfortable raising the topic of the 1919 World Series, not connecting the very effective way the league closed that chapter on baseball history. I think a lot of people would be fine with lifetime bans for eight Astros, or more.

Still, seeing Alex Cora return to Boston after a minimal sentence, then lead his Red Sox to an upset over the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS to immense praise, makes one realize that lingering shame and skepticism is the only punishment that stands a chance of sticking here. In a way, it’s comforting that prominent people still dislike that feeling.

* * * * * * * * *

For his part, Tony La Russa declined to get involved in the debate, and downplayed the idea of it.

“I just don’t get into it,” La Russa said. “And I try to realize this is America and players can say what they want to, and I can say that I don’t get into it if I want to. They’re a very good team and they’re tough to beat. That’s what I think.”

He also shared his idea for avoiding sign-stealing confrontations in the future.

“I would have the runner on second base face center field while the catcher is putting the sign down,” La Russa said. “I really would.” […]

“I think the easy thing is to have the guy turn around,” La Russa added. “I think it would put an end to it, and it’s pretty simple, but it hasn’t gotten past my recommendation. That’s what I would do.”

As far as impractical, honor-based suggestions go, I’m not sure if it’s more or less quaint than the demand Peter Gammons made of Tepera.

It’s probably good the ALDS is only a best-of-five. This series needs to last two more days, and no longer. Game 4 starts at 1:07 p.m., and the White Sox are sticking with Carlos Rodón, whose entire White Sox career has built up to this moment. The level of Houston’s motivation is likely a secondary concern.

(Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

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vince

Baker’s response wasn’t a denial. Just sayin’

FishSox

I took it as messing with Houston more than internal motivation…but that’s what makes these discussions great.

As Cirensica

Yeah…. I thought of it as something that could work either way. It could be motivating as distracting.

fustercluck

Dusty should’ve been asked if he’s concerned about losing his job if his players are up to their old shenanigans

HallofFrank

I’m not a Tepera supporter in this matter, as I doubt there’s funny business afoot. But Gammons (and many others) have jumped on Tepera’s accusations for having “no evidence,” which is unfair. He’s already presented evidence: a group of proven cheaters whose ABs against the same Sox pitchers in Houston were curiously, noticeably better than their ABs in Chicago. That is evidence. Of course, it’s only circumstantial evidence and doesn’t settle the matter. But similar accusations made pre-2019 against the Astros were met with the same hostility. I doubt Tepera is right about his non-accusation suspicions, but you can’t blame him for being suspicious.

hitlesswonder

Tepera’s off-the-cuff presser comments weren’t even a direct “I know they are still cheating”. He voiced suspicions that I’m sure a bunch of pitchers have when they get tagged in Houston.

Probably they aren’t cheating, but acting like this implication impugns the unbesmirched honor of the Houston Astros is ridiculous and there has to be a better way for Gamons to get clicks. Maybe he could demand Chris Sale apologize to his teammates and the rest of MLB for failing to get vaxed and getting covid twice.

texag10

There is as much evidence right now that they aren’t cheating as there is that they are.

calcetinesblancos

Peter Gammons needs to go outside and get some fresh air.

Lurker Laura

Seriously, WTF, Peter Gammons. Are you the White Sox’s dad?

Jason

Our grandpa. And he forgot we already have one.

Hulksmash

So…if Terera has to deliver this kind of apology for making an accusation of cheating, per Gammons’s standards, what’s the punishment for actual cheating? Where’s the 2017 Astros’ tour around major league baseball apologizing to every single player in the league?

jorgefabregas

What do we think of the lineup?

Last edited 2 years ago by jorgefabregas
roke1960

I like this lineup. Getting Moncada/Robert in the 2/3 slots should have happened a long time ago.

Michael Kenny

Makes you wonder why they left Mercedes off the playoff roster when he’s clearly the superior 2B option.

No complaints here. Go get ’em, boys!

As Cirensica

It is perfect. Moncada can do damage against a pitcher like McCullers

670WMAQtheElder

Tepera was wise to remind all baseball fans that the Astros cheated to win, and that so many of the Astros players he’s pitching to should have been banned for life. His comment puts the burden on the Astros to prove that they don’t cheat. If there is a Game 5, all eyes will be looking for it in Minute Maid.

And, Tepera reminds us, too, that Alex Cora was a integral conspirator. He should have been banned, but here he is in the ALCS. As much as MLB might want the story to be about the Red Sox, Tepera makes sure the sports media has to include 2019 in Cora’s ALCS story.

Last edited 2 years ago by 670WMAQtheElder
Willardmarshall

Compared with football and basketball, baseball doesn’t seem much influenced by “extra motivation”….

I’m going to swing this bat so hard today!

Root Cause

until Abreu gets hit with a fastball!

As Cirensica

Many people bring out the home/away splits to prove the Astros weren’t cheating, bla bla. Yet, whether that’s the truth or not, things can change AFTER the season. home/away splits during the regular season means nothing if known cheaters decided to keep their “aces” under the sleeve for post-season baseball. I know this is too Machiavelli thinking.

soxexile

I don’t know whether Houston was stealing signs or not, but if the Sox can’t get more than 4 singles in 6.2 innings off of McCullers, it won’t really matter.

Root Cause

Hey Peter,

Tepera said he would apologize to the Atro’s after those caught cheating have been banned for life. And if done today, he could just walk across to their dugout to close the entire issue.

roke1960

Once a cheater, always a cheater, especially when there are no consequences for your actions.