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Washington Nationals can’t avoid talking about the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal

When they would have preferred to be talking about their 2019 World Series win, the Washington Nationals had to answer questions about the Houston Astros’ sign stealing and trash can banging...

MLB: Washington Nationals-Workouts Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

Kurt Suzuki joked during his talk with reporters at WinterFest in January that he was happy the Washington Nationals beat the Houston Astros in last year’s World Series so it wouldn’t be weird for the Nats when they got to West Palm Beach, FL and the Spring Training facility they’ve shared with their opponent in the 115th Fall Classic for the last four years.

“Oh man, I’m glad we won, that’s for sure,” Suzuki laughed.

“I mean, I’m glad we won, and just going to Spring Training knowing we’ve got the bragging rights over them for Spring Training. We share the complex, I thought about that too, I was like, man, that’s going to be weird if we lose, so winning made it a lot easier.”

Winning wasn’t easy, however, and as Suzuki noted, the stories about the Astros’ antics in terms of sign-stealing were well-known going into the Series, and the Nationals did what they could to prepare for the possibility that things weren’t on the up and up in Houston.

Though MLB’s official report on the Astros’ trash can-banging found there was nothing untoward going on in 2019, Suzuki said he was pretty sure that it still was in October.

“Oh, yeah, no question,” Suzuki said, as quoted yesterday by Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell.

“We could hear it from their dugout. We heard their whistling. What are you going to do?”

Asked by the WaPost reporter about the Astros’ denials of any cheating in 2019, Suzuki dismissed their claims.

“They just got better at it,” he said.

The Nationals’ catcher wasn’t the only one talking about the Astros, of course, who were on their side of the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, addressing their past misdeeds in a desperate and ultimately failed attempt to put it all behind them, and move on to the 2020 campaign.

“I think about how they say they wish they had done more to stop it and they’re remorseful,” Sean Doolittle said when the Nationals’ closer spoke on the first day of workouts in West Palm Beach.

“And I think about pitchers that had to stand up in front of their lockers after games,” the veteran reliever continued, “... searching for answers after they just got hit around. I don’t know if a lot of people realize what that does to a pitcher, especially a reliever, who in that situation — that might have been the difference in the game, and he’s got to stand there and face the music, not really knowing what to put his finger on, or what went wrong or why he got hit around the way that he did.

“And for some guys that was there last chance, they got send down or they got sent out.

“You spend weeks, you spend months looking for answers after an outing like that and it can change the trajectory of your season, it can impact your team’s win/loss record in the long run because you’re not as effective because you’re kind of wracked with self-doubt. I think about the implications it might have had for teams making the playoffs and guys in the clubhouse and clubhouse staff, playoff shares, how that would have come into effect and there’s lot of layers to this, so it’s going to take more than one day of issuing statements and answering questions to feel good about moving on from this.”

The Astros’ efforts were not well-received by the baseball world, and Doolittle said he knew it wasn’t going to go away any time soon.

“I think in the long-run some of their actions — actions will speak louder than words, and being sorry that you got caught and being sorry for what you did are two different things,” he said.

“It’s not going to go away in one day, this is going to be an ongoing process unfortunately.

“This is something that all of baseball has to reckon with, and we’re all still trying to come to grips with it and process it. It might take a bit.”

Max Scherzer said he didn’t want to be put in a place where he has to explain another club’s actions.

“If you’re asking me to address the Astros’ scandal, I mean, look, we heard what was said,” the three-time Cy Young award winner told reporters, “... they crossed the moral line and cheated, but they’ve got to answer to it. It’s not really for us to speak for them, they need to speak for themselves. They need to talk to the fans of baseball and explain what happened.”

“We know that they crossed the line,” Scherzer added. “They need to answer for it. So, like I said, it’s not my job to answer for them, so we’ll see what they said.”

“I think everyone knows what they did is wrong,” Patrick Corbin said. “And there’s a lot of frustrated people with what they did, but ... guys have for years relayed signs from second, and it’s a part of the game and you can defend that. I think what they were doing — it was something that was harder and people didn’t know about it and couldn’t really do anything about it to defend themselves.”

GM Mike Rizzo said it was unfair that the Astros’ actions put, “a black cloud over the sport I love,” and that the Nationals deserved the spotlight in West Palm Beach yesterday, but did not get it because everyone was focused on Houston’s misdeeds.

That likely won’t change any time soon, especially, as Rizzo said, because the Astros went through all of yesterday’s interviews without saying that they’d cheated: