The ripples from the splash that has been the Astros cheating scandal will continue to be felt for months to come, even as the team issued their first middling public apology on Thursday morning.
As players on opposing teams come to terms with the impact of the cheating, it has been a burden perhaps most heavily shouldered by opposing pitchers. Yu Darvish is among those most often cited as being hurt by the cheating, but the most recent pitcher to speak about the situation is former Rays’ ace Chris Archer.
Archer, who was with the Rays during the height of the scandal in 2017, spoke candidly to Stephen J. Nesbitt of The Athletic about it. [Editor’s note: The full article is behind a paywall and we will not quote it heavily here. It’s very worth the read, and is available here]
According to Nesbitt’s discussion with Archer, after a particularly rough outing against the Astros in August 2017, a Houston player called Archer directly and complimented his pitching, but also said, “You were just tipping.”
The Rays won the game that day, but to Archer it seemed like the team was one step ahead of him the whole time. Carlos Beltran, especially, seemed to have Archer’s number that night. As we now know, there’s a good reason Archer felt that way.
It was clear from his interview that Archer was heated about the situation, and possibly angrier because someone he thought he knew had lied right to his face.
“You heard some rumors. But I don’t think anybody expected it to be to that extent, especially when you know these dudes on a personal level. You’ve talked to them. You’ve gone to dinners with them. You’ve even been on the same team with some of them — Team USA and stuff. FaceTimed with them throughout the season and offseason. Texted with them. Whatever.”
Baseball is a brotherhood of sorts, with strong relationships being built between players even on opposing teams. It’s a shared experience with a group of men in a very small fraternity, that of Major League Baseball. The reason why the scandal hurts players more than anyone else is that it comes with the realization that men you knew and liked would be willing to betray you for their own advantage.
Still, Archer is old school. He won’t say which player it was that tried to convince him he was just tipping his pitches. But close to 40 trash can bangs sounded during that August 1 game, 21 came during Archer’s time on the mound.
He said he doesn’t need to see replay footage of the events of that day, he knows something wasn’t right, and he knew it at the time.
What he knows now is that it wasn’t him showing his hand, but something much more diabolical. That doesn’t give him much comfort in retrospect.
And as for those fellow players, the ones who lied and cheated to get to the top?
“It sucks that there’s no repercussions for the players. But that’s what they agreed on.”