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This article originally appeared on CultureMap.
You like irony? In 2015, the Positive Coaching Alliance asked if I'd interview and write a column about the guest speaker at its annual fundraiser. The Positive Coaching Alliance promotes good sportsmanship in youth sports. Its mission statement is, "Play by the rules, honor the sport."
The guest speaker? A.J. Hinch, the Houston Astros manager first suspended for a year by Major League Baseball, then fired forever by team owner Jim Crane for his role in the Astros' sign-stealing cheating scandal.
I am sad to see Hinch go. He seemed like a good guy and the perfect manager for the lovable Astros. Obviously, he was involved enough in the skullduggery to warrant a suspension and Crane is right to clear house, including dismissing Hinch. The Astros need to be a clean machine.
General manager Jeff Luhnow, I never cared for. He always struck me as a skunk and bit of a nut job. I once corrected his spelling on Twitter and he didn't see the humor in that.
Then I saw him wearing flip-flops at Fuddruckers and I saw nothing funny about that. I've got a thing about feet and food.
There's cheating...and then there's cheating
But cheating is a weird thing. There's cheating...and then there's cheating. As a Little League manager, I was a member of the Positive Coaching Alliance. One time, the local PCA rep asked if I thought "framing" a pitch was cheating.
Framing a pitch is when the catcher moves his glove slightly after catching a pitch so the umpire is more likely to call the pitch a strike. I said it wasn't cheating, every big league catcher does it on TV. It's part of the game. The PCA rep said it absolutely was cheating and I should tell my catcher not to do it. I told him, I'm lucky if my pitcher can reach home plate, and if he does it's unlikely my catcher will catch the ball. Next subject.
I didn't grow up in Houston, so my life will go on without Hinch and Luhnow fired. I remember comedian Robert Klein telling how he worshipped the New York Yankees when he was a kid growing up in The Bronx. He lived and died with the Yankees. He celebrated each win, mourned each loss. Then he became a celebrity and was invited into the Yankee clubhouse. During his visit, he saw Yogi Berra emerging from the shower. From that day on, he was OK with the Yankees losing a game.
My kid and his friends did grow up here. They're devastated by the news that Hinch has been fired as Astros manager. They all played baseball through Little League and high school and some beyond. One of them told me, "We stole signs on every level." In Little League, managers in the third base coach's box often could see the opponent's catcher stick down one finger for a fast ball, two fingers for a curve. If the coach saw one finger, he'd yell to the batter, "C'mon, Johnny." If the coach saw two fingers, he'd holler, "C'mon number 5!" Not exactly Navajo code talkers, but the batter was 12 years old.
If a tournament had a strict 90-minute time limit, coaches would tell their batters to stall, tie their shoelaces, call time out, adjust their batting gloves. Catchers were told to visit the mound and recite the Gettysburg Address. There's a company that will take a metal bat and practically turn it into a rocket launcher by hardening the metal or shaving the inside to make it lighter. I've seen parents let their hotshot kid pitch six innings for one team in the morning, then another six innings for a different team that afternoon. That's sick and more than a little dangerous and possibly rising to child abuse.
Continue on CultureMap to read about the distinction between theatrics and cheating.
The Houston Astros were in need of some serious help in the bullpen with Phil Maton, Hector Neris, and Ryne Stanek likely leaving this year in free agency.
The Houston Astros have acquired RHP Dylan Coleman from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for RHP Carlos Mateo. pic.twitter.com/hDYuBLn2Kv
— Houston Astros (@astros) December 6, 2023
While some fans were getting concerned about the quiet offseason, the club has made two moves this week to get the ball rolling.
First the team signed Victor Caratini to be the backup catcher, and now they have added some relief pitching.
The Astros traded pitching prospect Carlos Mateo to the Royals for RHP pitcher Dylan Coleman.
Coleman appeared in 96 games in the past three seasons for KC, including 68 games in 2022 and 23 games last season. He has a career 3.88 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He’s fastball (95 mph), slider (81) and cutter (90) and walked 57 batters and struck out 99 in 92 2/3 innings.
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) December 6, 2023
Coleman is under club control for the next several years, and made just over $700,000 in 2022. With the Astros right up against the tax threshold, this is a good way to add to the bullpen without having to hand out a large contract.
The Royals had a tough roster decision to make with Coleman, and the Astros made the decision easy for them by making the trade.
Something to note
There's a reason Kansas City wasn't determined to protect Coleman from the Rule 5 Draft. Despite his decent numbers over the last three seasons, 2023 was a rough year for him, posting an 8.84 ERA over 23 games.
In fact, Coleman pitched more innings (30.2) for the Royals AAA team than he did for the big league club (18.1) in 2023.
Hopefully, the Astros can get him back on track this season with some help from their highly touted player development program.
You can watch some of his 2022 highlights above.