The Houston Astros have a number of villains on their roster whose names baseball fans know, but on Sunday the spotlight centered on one whose name might not be so familiar — Alex Cintrón.
Cintrón has been an Astros coach since 2017, becoming their hitting coach last year. He was the guy in the Astros dugout seen taunting Oakland Athletics outfielder Ramón Laureano before Sunday’s brawl between the two teams. Laureano had been hit twice Sunday by Astros pitchers and was angry the second time. After a bit of jawing as Laureano took his base, Cintrón said something to him and motioned for him to bring it on.
Laureano rushed the Astros dugout. Cintrón was then seen behind a row of Astros as chaos broke out on the field. Laureano will surely be suspended. MLB set clear expectations at the start of the season about this sort of thing during a coronavirus-shortened season. Socially distanced baseball can’t have bench-clearing brawls.
But a lot of the conversation has also centered on Cintrón who, as a coach, should probably know better than to escalate a situation like this. He’s likely to get a sizable suspension too. If Joe Kelly of the Dodgers got eight games for taunting the Astros and throwing pitches near the heads (but not hitting) two Astros hitters, well, this has to be worse in MLB’s eyes.
While we await word on punishments, there’s been plenty of eyes on Cintrón’s past — specifically for his role in the Astros’ cheating scandal and an incident with the Yankees in last year’s playoffs.
Alex Cintrón’s role in Astros cheating scandal
Before he became an Astros coach, Cintrón had a familiar path: He played parts of nine seasons in the big leagues with the Diamondbacks, White Sox, Orioles and Nationals. He wasn’t a great player — the highlight of his career was hitting .317 with 13 homers in 2003 for the D-backs — but worked his way up the Astros coaching tree. He started out as an assistant coach, translator and advance scout in 2017. He was promoted after the 2018 season to his current role as hitting coach.
It’s 2017 that’s most interesting because that’s when the Astros cheating scheme took place. While he didn’t get as many headlines as Carlos Beltran or Alex Cora, Cintrón was also very involved, according to the Wall Street Journal’s reporting.
The Astros’ system — dubbed “Codebreaker” — was discussed by Tom Koch-Weser, an Astros analyst who creates advance reports on opposing teams, in an email obtained by the Journal. In the e-mail, Koch-Weser specifically names Cintrón as part of the scheme. From the Codebreaker article:
“I don’t want to electronically correspond too much about ‘the system’ but Cora/Cintron/Beltran have been driving a culture initiated by Bregman/Vigoa last year and I think it’s working,” Koch-Weser wrote. “I have no proof that it has worked, but we get real good dope on pitchers tipping and being lazy. That information, if it’s not already, will eventually yield major results in our favor once players get used to the implementation.” (Alex Cintrón was an Astros assistant coach in 2017 and is now their hitting coach. He was believed to be involved in transmitting information from the video room to the dugout, a person familiar said.)
Like Astros players, Cintrón was never punished for his role in the cheating scheme. He kept his job as Astros hitting coach even after manager A.J. Hinch was suspended, then fired and the Astros brought in Dusty Baker as manager.
Alex Cintrón’s previous beef with the Yankees
The A’s aren’t the only team who don’t like Cintrón. If you recall the 2019 ALCS, the Yankees and Astros were quite angry at each other, with accusations of whistling and sign-stealing hurled the Astros’ way before the 2017 scandal was even uncovered.
In Game 1 of that series, things got heated between Cintrón and Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin. According to SNY, Cintrón flipped off Nevin and Nevin responded by telling Alex Bregman, “Tell your f---ing hitting coach I'm going to kick his f---ing ass.”
At that point, some in baseball circles already had Cintrón pegged as part of the Astros’ cheating ring. While the Astros were cleared by MLB of the whistling allegations last postseason, that didn’t mean the Yankees believed them. As SNY wrote at the time, “The Yankees believed that their ALCS opponent was cheating, and that, according to a source, Cintrón was the one whistling to batters.”
That’s three Astros controversies that Cintrón has been involved in — but this is the first time he’s been one of the primary characters. It’s likely to be the first time he’s punished by the league too.
More from Yahoo Sports: