The MLB office came down with a significant punishment for the Houston Astros on Monday, and it looks like current Blue Jays bench coach Dave Hudgens hasn’t been dragged into it.
Monday will go down as one for the MLB history books, and unfortunately it’s not for a very good reason.
The punishment for the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal was announced, and it was fairly substantial. GM Jeff Luhnow and Astros manager AJ Hinch were suspended for the 2020 season, and were both fired by the Astros later in the day. Houston will also face the loss of their first and second round picks during the MLB draft in both 2020 and 2021, and will have to pay a five million dollar fine, which is the maximum fine allowed at the moment. Short of stripping them of their title (which was never going to happen), or punishing individual players (which would have been nearly impossible to sort out), the league really brought down the hammer.
It doesn’t sound like the MLB office is done either, as there are expectations that Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox will also receive a harsh punishment, as he was the bench coach in Houston during their 2017 championship season. He’s not the only former Astro employee that’s moved on though, and that brings me to how this may or may not effect the Blue Jays.
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I’ve wondered for a while if Dave Hudgens would get caught up in the Astros’ scandal, but for the time being he appears to have escaped any punishment or blame. Now serving as the Blue Jays bench coach, Hudgens was the hitting coach in Houston in 2017, and it’s not hard to wonder what kind of role he played in this whole debacle, if any.
From the sound of things, Hudgens either didn’t have much to do with the process of cheating, at least from what we’re getting from the early reports so far. It might be too early to view him as “in the clear”, but yesterday’s article from Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith painted a positive outlook, at least in comparison to what Alex Cora could be facing from the league office:
"“While Cora was mentioned 11 times in MLB’s nine-page report, Dave Hudgens’ name was not mentioned once. Hudgens, now the Blue Jays’ bench coach, was Houston’s hitting coach in 2017 when the Astros used trash cans to tell hitters what pitches were coming. MLB questioned Hudgens in November, but the report doesn’t mention him or other coaches, stating instead that the system of banging on the trash cans ‘was, with the exception of Cora, player-driven and player-executed’.”"
To be fair, Nicholson-Smith also makes a good point that it’s hard to believe that Hudgens would be in the dark about what was going on, as he was the hitting coach after all. However, Luhnow put most of the blame on Cora and some “lower level employees”, and it’s at least a little surprising that Hudgens’ name didn’t come up in the report. It’ll also be fascinating to see if he chimes in on the story at all in the coming weeks.
The Blue Jays also have two former Astros on their roster right now, but none of the players will face direct discipline from the league office, including new Mets manager Carlos Beltran, who was specifically named during the early days of this story breaking. MLB said that punishing players would be “both difficult and impractical”, and that goes for current Blue Jays like Ken Giles and Derek Fisher as well. Obviously Giles would be an unlikely suspect since he was a pitcher, and Fisher had just 167 MLB plate appearances that season, including one during the postseason.
For the moment it looks like the Astros’ scandal won’t touch the Blue Jays, or more specifically, Hudgens doesn’t look like he’ll face discipline based on what we’ve seen so far. That said, Monday’s announcement is a great reminder to the Jays and the rest of the league that cheating has no place in baseball, whether it comes in the former of performance enhancing drugs, or the use of technology. We don’t know if, or how deeply involved Hudgens may have been involved in the Astros’ scheme back then, but hopefully his not being named so far means he was against it.