The Yankees were cheating in 2015 and 2016. Composite image by Brandon Strange.
If something existed that contained information that would expose a person as a hypocrite and shed the right light on a situation, wouldn't the public want to know? Shouldn't the public have a right to know? Well, MLB and the Yankees have fought long and hard to keep the contents of the famed "Yankee Letter of 2017" hidden from the public, but that day is no more! All the years of suppressing this letter have come to an end. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred probably cried on his pillow when he found out the last appeal was thrown out by the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals and the letter would have to be opened.
Copies were attained and published online by a few outlets, allowing the public to read it for themselves. In short, the Yankees cheated. They stole signs going back to the 2015 and 2016 seasons. They were fined $100,000 dollars in the September 14, 2017 letter for using video equipment and the dugout phone to relay stolen signs. The fact that Manfred helped hide this from the public for so long, seemingly to protect the Yankees, is quite disturbing.
I know what you're thinking: "How come the Astros were hit so heavily? How come they got fined $5 million dollars and lost their 1st and 2nd round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts?" That's because they continued to use their sign stealing scheme after Manfred sent his love note to the Yankees and after his warning to all other teams to knock it off in 2017. The funny thing about MLB is they're so full of themselves. This was very apparent in the wake of the Astros' fine and the way other teams, players, executives, media, and fans reacted. It reminded me of Cersei's walk of atonement on Game of Thrones. They were cast as this horrible villain by the same people who did some of the same things and piled on by the sheep who were led by false shepherds.
People like Andy Martino wrote books proclaiming Yankee innocence. His premise was that their methods were so sophisticated, they couldn't have been cheating. National media members like Jeff Passan went on crusades bashing the Astros. Fans from all other MLB teams relentlessly went after the team, their fans, created merchandise, and ruthlessly crucified anything and anybody pro-Astros. Perhaps the worst part was the fact that other players, coaches, and MLB execs knew for a fact others were doing the same, yet they piled on as if they were squeaky clean.
Back in my day, we used Napster and Limewire to pirate music. Before that, we'd record music from the radio and make mixtapes. My uncle had a 60-disc changer with a cassette deck I'd use to make tapes and sell them. What if I got caught and was faced with punishment, but instead of owning it, I decided to conspire with the government to suppress my actions, then bash others who got caught whose crimes and punishments were made public? How would I be viewed if it got out that I too was a part of the pirate music wrongdoers, but chose to sit on my high horse and act as if my bleep didn't stink?
I just have one message for all those jerks who piled on the Astros and Astro fans: keep that same f'ing energy y'all had when y'all thought and portrayed the Astros as these dirty cheaters! Keep that same energy Jeff Passan, with his Great Value Joel Osteen looking ass! I want the same vitriol y'all had when y'all acted like the Astros killed puppies and kicked babies! What they did was the equivalent of your mom telling you and your siblings not to do something after you all got caught, and they did it anyway. They were bootlegging during Prohibition and got caught, except other bootleggers decided they'd throw some shade since they weren't the ones made out to be the pariah. I'll be monitoring the internet and social media to see who admits their faults or backtracks. Not expecting to see much of this, but it would be nice. In the meantime Astros fans, let's enjoy this season, but do not back down from anybody who gives you any crap! I want ALL the smoke because I'll have that same energy they had when they piled on the Astros!
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.