FORT MYERS, Fla. -- If anybody had any questions about whether or not Jonathan Lucroy was going to dance around commenting on the Astros' cheating scandal -- as has been the case with numerous Red Sox players throughout the early days of spring training -- the catcher left no room for interpretation after just four minutes of his introductory press conference at JetBlue Park.
"I knew about that two years ago, it was going on," Lucroy said when asked about Houston's method of cheating. "I know it just recently came out. Everybody in baseball, especially in that division that played against them, we were all aware of the Astros doing those things. It was up to us to outsmart them, I guess you could say, which is kind of hard when you have a computer program that breaks your signs. We actively changed signs. Almost every pitch we were changing signs. You had to because they had them. They were relaying them from second. They were stealing from first too, from between your legs. They had a very intricate system going on, we were well aware of it and it was a challenge. It was a mental challenge to really overcome that. It's easier said than done. It's a shame. I'm glad it came out and was brought to light because it needed to. It was getting out of hand. I was in that division for three years on different teams playing against them. There were times they were on every single pitch and you're like, 'How are they doing this? How is this happening?' When we found out we were like, 'We have to start changing signs up a lot.' And we did and the swings got worse whenever we tried changing signs up all the time."
Lucroy, who played against the Astros with the Rangers, Oakland and Angels, said he learned of the details regarding Houston's methods from Mike Fiers. Fiers played with Lacroy with the A's and was the player being credited with bringing Houston's ways to light through his interview with The Athletic.
"When I saw it, I read it and I’m like, ‘Oh boy, here we go.’," said Lucroy, referencing seeing Fiers' public comments. "And people are calling me and I’m like, ‘Look, I’ve known about that for two years.’ Guys who were playing against them … I would text people and say, ‘Just so you know, this is what is going on.’ It got around baseball pretty quick."
"Yeah, that’s how I found out," the catcher said of Fiers. "We knew they were stealing signs before because you would be back there catching and they would be whistling, whistling or yelling. I’m always listening for those things. Those guys do it all the time. If I set up outside they will whistle. They will whistle location. Or they will call their last name or their number for location if I go in or out. So you will see catchers setting up late so guys don’t have time do to that. But I knew they were doing all that, which a lot of teams do that. That’s OK. That’s on the field. On the field is one thing. That’s fair game. That’s part of it. But when you’re talking about it the way they were with the trash can that’s pretty tough."
Here are some of the other comments made by Lucroy on the sign-stealing controversy:
ON THE CHEATING IMPACTING THE GAME
"Whenever guys are taking borderline pitches and turning on fastballs up and in at 97 it’s like, ‘These guys know they’re coming.’ And you’re looking int he outfield and guys in the bullpen are doing something with binoculars, there has to be something going on. A lot of other guys have said this across the league, when you know what pitches are coming and you have a guy on the mound throwing 97 … Guys will go up and sit on pitches, they will sit on a fastball. But you’re playing the percentages. Whenever you know 100 percent what is coming it’s a huge advantage."
NECESSITATING PROLONGED PREPARATION FOR GAMES AGAINST THE ASTROS
"Big-time. I remember when a game Edwin Jackson was pitching. He was a guy who had been around a long time so I knew I could get really complicated on signs and he would be OK. It was a mental workout because we were switching signs every single pitch because you had to because if you didn’t they were going to get it, they were going to get it and take advantage of it."
DID ASTROS TAKE CHEATING TO ANOTHER LEVEL?
"One hundred percent. If you’re going out there and your pitcher is on the mound using first sign, or last sign, or second sign, or second sign after two and they are out there getting your pitches that’s your fault. If they are stealing you’re signs that is your fault. But if they are out there breaking a complex set of signs with nobody on base, and they’re doing that, there is something wrong with that. That’s not right. There are other teams too that do those things, but like I said as long as you’re changing the signs up and you’re rotating them and you have a system … Us as players we’ve developed these systems over the course of a long time. I have a 1,000 signs in my head we can use and as long as you’re changing those up the guys on second don’t know what is going on. If you’re constantly changing the signs they are going to have a lot of trouble."
SHOULD ASTROS PLAYERS BEEN PUNISHED?
"Guys do steroids, they get punished. Guys cheat in this era they get punished. I saw that in 2011 with the Brewers, 2011 and ’12 with that whole situation there. That guy got punished. For me the hardest part … Everyone else has been saying this: You’re taking money. Guys are out there on the mound and maybe a Triple-A, up-and-down guy and he gets rocked because you’re stealing signs like that and he gets sent down and never plays again. Or a guy who gets his career ended because he goes out there and gets rocked. This game is a business and if you’re not performing you don’t play. Guys have families, kids. That’s the hardest thing for me is because these guys taking away money away from players and their families and their kids, that’s the hardest part for me, the hardest thing for me to swallow. I just think you should play the game the right way. If you want to steal signs fine. Do it on second like everyone else does. I’ve been on teams that have done that. That’s normal. That’s part of the game. But doing it illegally, blatantly, that’s tough especially how it affects your livelihood."