The Chicago White Sox broke out in Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Sunday, beating the Houston Astros, 12-6, and extending their season for at least one more game.
The White Sox had been totally stifled in the first two games of the series, which were played at Houston's Minute Maid Park and featured a lot of hits (20 over those two games) from the Astros.
Following their Game 3 win, which was played at Guaranteed Rate Field, White Sox pitcher Ryan Tepera ruminated on that and heavily implied that the Astros might be up to their old tricks, AKA cheating.
White Sox reliever Ryan Tepera on the Astros: "They've had a reputation of doing some sketchy stuff over there. We can say it's a little bit of a difference. I think you saw the swings and misses tonight compared to the first two games at Minute Maid."
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) October 11, 2021
Tepera was very careful to not actually accuse the Astros of cheating. He didn't even say the word "cheating." And that's a good thing, because there's no real evidence that the Astros — the team whose sign-stealing scandal roiled baseball and reshaped their front office just over a year ago — have been cheating.
The only information Tepera wields is that the Astros were hitting well at home, which is circumstantial at best. Teams typically do well at home, hence the phrase "home-field advantage" and the Astros were MLB's best offense in the regular season. Plus, the Astros had hitting success at Guaranteed Rate Field on Sunday, scoring the same number of runs (six) as they did in Game 1 at Minute Maid Park.
White Sox’s Ryan Tepera:”U play at Minute Maid,they’re doing something over there that’s a little different. It showed u how many swings&misses they had tonight compared to at Minute Maid” Asked to expand on that) “They’ve obviously had a reputation of doing some sketchy stuff..” pic.twitter.com/lc6q1IYXKS
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) October 11, 2021
Dusty Baker responds
There was no way the Astros wouldn't take notice of Tepera's words. Manager Dusty Baker definitely did. He responded to Tepera by using the words of Eric Clapton, implying that Tepera and the White Sox might be the ones cheating.
Houston #Astros manager Dusty Baker on #White Sox reliever Ryan Tepera: "Those are heavy accusations. ...I was listening to Eric Clapton this morning, and he had a song: "Before you accuse me, you need to look at yourself.' You know what I mean. That's all I got to say.''
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) October 11, 2021
Astros have to live with their reputation
Despite the lack of evidence, it's hard to blame Tepera or anyone else on the White Sox (not to mention other teams the Astros might face in the playoffs) for openly wondering if the Astros are cheating. The scheme they employed throughout their World Series-winning 2017 season, using a trash can banging system to warn hitters of what pitches were coming, is seared into baseball lore — and the minds of their opponents.
Is it fair that the Astros will be suspected of cheating in every playoff series for the foreseeable future? Probably not (even though a lot of players from the 2017 season still play for the Astros), but that's how it goes. Philadelphia sports fans booed Santa in the 1970s and are still called the worst fans in sports because of it.
The sports world has a long memory, so the Astros are likely to carry their reputation as cheaters with them for years to come.