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Last updated 2/11/2020 at Noon

I spent a few days in Houston last week playing in a tournament with my bridge partner Susan Pennington and discovered first hand by people I visited with that many local Houston Astros fans are fearful Major League Baseball may take away their 2017 World Championship.

This idea was verified last week by recently-fired Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch in an interview by Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci when he “assumed culpability and expressed contrition for tolerating too much during the 2017 season,” according to Saturday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle.

“Hinch expressed regret unseen by many others ensnared in the electronic sign- stealing scandal.

He declined a follow-up interview with The Chronicle on Friday,” the article continued.

Friday’s Wall Street Journal revealed the origins of the sign-stealing scheme traced back to a program called “Codebreaker”—an algorithm-based in Excel that was able to decode catchers’ signs.

According to The Chronicle, the program was created in 2016 and that then- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow knew it existed.

MLB’s investigation revealed Codebreaker began with baseball operations employees entering signs and pitches into an Excel spreadsheet.

The algorithm formulated patterns and how the pitches and signs corresponded, the Chronicle stated.

Astros’ players eventually took over the scheme during the 2017 season with then-bench coach Alex Cora implementing the trashcan banging that Hinch admitted he heard.

Hinch confirmed that, twice during the 2017 season, he smashed the monitor used to steal the signs with a baseball bat.

“In hindsight, I should have had a meeting and addressed it face forward and really ended it,” he was quoted by the Chronicle as saying.

“I should have had a more forceful reaction at the appropriate time, which is the time I found out.

I still feel responsible and I’ll always feel responsible as the man out front,” the former skipper confessed.

“I hope over time it’s proven that the 2017 World Series title wasn’t tainted.

But we did it to ourselves.” “Players, who were given immunity for their cooperation, told MLB investigators that they would have ceased the tomfoolery if Hinch asked them to,” the article stated.

However, Houston continued to steal signs under Hinch into the 2018 regular season.

Speculation has swirled that, in 2019, Astros players wore buzzers or other wearable devices that alerted them of a pitch before it was thrown.

But Jose Altuve, Josh Reddick and Alex Bregman have all denied the accusation and Major League Baseball said it investigated the claims and found nothing to substantiate it, according to the Chronicle article.

New general manager James Click, who was hired last week by Astros owner Jim Crane said he is “very confident and absolutely certain Houston was not using electronics to steal signs during the 2019 postseason.

Click came form the Tampa Bay Rays, the team Houston defeated in a five-game American League Division Series.

During the playoffs, one of Click’s responsibilities

was touring each visiting ball park with major league officials, who pointed out each piece of technology in the building.

“They could tell us exactly what it was for and where it was going,” Click said.

“And so, through that process, I think we all got very comfortable that there was nothing going on.

From that perspective, I’m very confident and absolutely certain there was nothing going on” And to make sure another scandal like this doesn’t happen again, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred intends to impose new limits on what live video is available to teams.

“I think you should assume that before the season starts, we will have new guidelines with respect to the use of video equipment,” Manfred told the Associated Press last Thursday.

“I think we have too much video available in real time right now,” The Astros are reporting to their spring training site this week at West Palm Beach and begin the exhibition Grapefruit League season Feb. 22 against Washington, which also has its training site at West Palm Beach.

KWICKIES… Lamar University’s new head football coach Blane Morgan got off to a late start with recruiting with only half of his staff in place and still managed to sign 25 recruits on National Signing Day last week consisting of 21 high school recruits and four junior college transfers.

However, although Morgan vowed to recruit Southeast Texas heavily, he only signed one local player from Beaumont United, defensive lineman Jakevian Wilson.

Canadian Nick Taylor led last weekend’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am from start to finish, holding off charges from veteran Phil Mickelson and Kevin Streelman to win by two strokes and the $1.404 million winner’s share.

The only other PGA golfer to lead the tournament all four days was Mickelson in 2005.

American League’s 2018 MVP Mookie Betts was traded by the Boston Red Sox to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with teammate David Price in an effort to get some salary relief after carrying baseball’s highest payroll for the past two seasons.

The Red Sox will receive Dodgers outfielder Alex Verdugo and prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.

JUST BETWEEN US…Football junkies who just can’t go without watching the sport got a reprieve last weekend when the XFL kicked off its inaugural season.

The Houston Roughnecks overpowered the Los Angeles Wildcats before 17,815 fans at TDECU Stadium in Houston Saturday.

One of the interesting new rules being tested is that teams don’t kick extra points after a touchdown.

Instead they must convert for one, two or three points from two, five or 10 yards out, respectively.

I wonder how long it will take before this new idea of pro football fizzles???


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