Many of the Astros can learn a lesson from their former teammate Collin McHugh.
The pitcher, who has signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox, met with the media in Fort Myers Friday and candidly discussed his view of the Houston cheating scandal. Unlike some of the Astros players, who danced around the 2017 transgressions, McHugh offered thoughtful and candid responses to reporters when asked about the subject:
On the backlash following the surfacing of the scandal
"It’s tough. I’ve thought about it a lot because like I said a lot of those guys are real close, we’re still really close friends and I feel for them because it’s going to be a tough season, a long road ahead. I know it’s not going to be an easy road for them. And looking back on the 2017 season, I feel like I’ve got a lot more perspective now. Looking back and seeing how hard pitching is in general and in the big leagues right now. I think this is the most talented group of players that’s ever been assembled in major league baseball without a doubt. So pitching every day in the big leagues no matter who you’re pitching against or what team you’re pitching against is really hard, it’s a grind. And to know, to put myself in the shoes of the guys who pitched against us in 2017, and to know that our hitters made that job that much harder that year, it’s hard to swallow. And I feel for them.
"I understand the anger. I understand when people are mad and pissed off. And I get it, I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to be out there and feel like a team has your signs and it’s a lonely place. So I think from that perspective, knowing that happened to some of my fellow pitchers that year, I understand. And I empathize with them and the fans and I think about watching baseball as a kid. Like I said I’m a huge baseball fan and watching baseball as a kid and looking at those guys and looking up to them and wanting to be just like them. I probably think the most disappointing thing is how — what we’ve said to fans throughout this process and I think it’s setting the wrong example. I’ve learned and I know in order to be a good baseball player - and I don’t mean a talented baseball player, because there’s a lot of talented baseball players — but a good baseball player, somebody I’d want to look up to as a kid, would be a good husband or a good father, or just a good adult in this world, you’ve got to be brave. And you’ve got to be willing to stick up for what you believe in and what you believe is right and what you believe is wrong and I think a lot of the guys on that team, including myself, are looking back now and wishing we’d been as brave in the moment and we thought we were beforehand. So yeah I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I hope we can move forward as a league and I hope we can move forward as a group of players and know that we’ll look at this as a learning experience because it really has to be so we can get better."
On being uncomfortable with the Astros stealing signs
"Yeah, it was really awkward. Sign stealing is universally, across the board bad for pitchers. And we know that. It made our jobs harder. And we truly believed or were made to believe that it was happening to us too and we don’t know if that was true or not but that’s not justification for doing anything. Just because you think they’re doing it, it’s not justification for doing something you know is not right. And like I said, looking back, I don’t know what we could have done as pitchers, it wasn’t really our territory, maybe we could have gotten together and somehow tried to stop it, but yeah. It was tough. It was tough watching that. You feel for guys out there who are working their tails off whether they’re on your team or against you. I love seeing good pitching and it took some really good pitching that year to beat us."
On if the controversy will change anything when it comes to sign stealing
"I don’t know if it’s ever going to go back to 100 percent just hey here’s my one sign I’m going to go do because I think there’s a little paranoia and rightly so in the league but I hope we can eventually get back to that and we can take steps both as a league and as player ourselves to guard against that. But yeah I want the games to be quicker. I want to get in and play some really good baseball and get out and I think Rob (Manfred) and the Commissioner's office are committed to that and have taken some steps to ensure that this isn’t going to happen again. The last two years have been in my opinion much much better. There’s still a little fo that paranoia there but I haven’t seen anything so for me it’s become something you have to take responsibility of yourself. I’m going to have multiple signs, it just is what it is."