WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — “You don't even have to open a message nowadays, you just see the first things in your suggested boxes and it says, ‘I will kill your family,’ ‘I will kill your kids,’ ” Josh Reddick said of how the past month has been for him and his teammates.
“And it's really depressing to read because it's over a game of baseball. It's not worth that kind of drastic measure.”
Reddick — whatever you think of him and his role on the 2017 Houston Astros, who broke the rules, and the 2020 Astros, who have been apologetic but unconvincingly contrite — is right. The death threats he and, according to Carlos Correa, “everyone” in the Astros clubhouse and also whistleblower Mike Fiers have received for their roles in the sign-stealing scandal are really depressing.
The Astros know they’re not the sympathetic figures in the story that has cannibalized the sport this spring training. And they know that nothing they say will make it better. Alex Bregman stonewalled his way through a press scrum on Friday saying, “Sorry, I know you guys have to ask the questions” but “I’m not going to talk about it anymore.”
I mean, I hate that, but can you blame him when even tweets about the death threats turn into discussion forums for the kinds of calamities strangers on the internet wish upon Reddick’s family? Or when a video of his five-month-old rolling over for the first time results in people commenting that they hope his kids get cancer?
Reddick, who has twin boys, said “it's gonna be pretty scary” this season because his wife was hoping to come on most road trips, “just to have my help raising them and doing our parenting things.”
“It's definitely something you can think about every night.”
The Astros cheated. The Astros are also now in a tough spot. The players were never realistically going to get punished — not because Rob Manfred is weak or because they’re wily super-villains who wriggled out of their just deserts or even because the Major League Baseball Players Association chose to side with a bunch of cheaters over the good guys. The existing regulations made it difficult if not impossible for the league to justify levying punishment against players, who are protected by a union that has a legal obligation to minimize their discipline.
Opposing players around the league are particularly agitated and frustrated because they feel the World Series has been tainted. The Astros’ illegal sign stealing rendered the 2017 championship invalid in their eyes, and perhaps voiding that or demanding the rings back would appease a certain segment of this now surprisingly vocal group. But Manfred has already said he has no intention of stripping Houston of their title. Comeuppance is not coming and the trash cans can’t be un-banged.
So the Astros will have to play baseball under the specter of guilt and villainy and also beanballs and death threats with the knowledge that anything they do or say to defend themselves will likely only inspire criticism of their sincerity. Is it any wonder, then, that when players association officials came through camp as part of their annual spring training tour to visit each team and listen to their grievances, the meeting with the Astros stretched over three hours?
Addressing the media after that, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark confirmed that player safety — on and off the field — was a topic of conversation behind those closed doors.
“When I talk about the humanization of the guys and I talk about the types of dialogue we had over the course of those hours, there's no doubt, making sure that our players and their families are able to go to and from the ballpark and perform safely is a huge piece of the puzzle,” Clark said.
“There are undoubtedly concerns out there, based on some of the commentary. There’s a heightened sense of concern to make sure that themselves and their families are protected.”
Reddick was unwilling to say that the ire from around the league was stoking the animosity toward the Astros — “It's already a pretty big flame” — but he did say, “I don't think players from outside of this team are really helping the situation by any means.”
With regards to that apparent division in the union, and asked whether he has a responsibility to implore the rest of the league to tone down their vitriol, Clark offered only that, “We don't gag our players, that's not something that we've ever done. But we do have and will continue to have conversations with guys about the comments that they do offer.”
Reddick anticipated that the team will meet with their dedicated MLB security official in the next couple days and the union is already in communication with the league about additional security measures for the Astros, as well as for Fiers.
“We’ve got to trust the PA,” Correa said about their safety going forward. “They’re the ones that have to protect us. And we have to trust them.”
He was primarily concerned for players’ families.
“Hopefully when we go on the road, they’re protected, ‘cause you know, when we get on the bus and we go to the field, we get security,” Correa said. “But they’re the ones that are exposed most.”
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