Aroldis Chapman understands that he threw the pitch and hasn't dodged responsibility.
But when the New York Yankees left-hander sees the video of Jose Altuve rounding the bases after the series-ending homer in Game 6 of the 2019 American League Championship Series, he wonders if Altuve knew that an off-speed pitch was coming.
As the Houston Astros second baseman nears home plate, he grabs his shirt and yells at his teammates not to rip off his jersey. Altuve's actions have increased speculation that the team's sign-stealing scandal included the use of wiring devices.
"I've seen that video," Chapman said Thursday through an interpreter in Tampa, Fla., where Yankees pitchers and catchers are in the early days of spring training. "A lot of people have seen that video. It's a popular video right now.
"And yeah, if you look at his actions, they look a little suspicious. At the end of the day, I just don't know. I can't tell you if he had the sign or didn't have the sign -- I don't know. That's a good question for him and for those guys. I just don't know."
Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez said he finds Altuve's action odd coming from a player who just hit a memorable game-winning blast.
"I can tell you that if I hit a homer and I get my team to the World Series, they can rip off my pants," Sanchez said through an interpreter, adding a smile. "Everything. They can rip everything off. If I get my team to the World Series, hitting a walk-off homer like that, they can rip anything off."
While Chapman said he doesn't know if Altuve was tipped off to the pitch, what he does know is that the scandal isn't a good look for the Astros, who won the World Series in 2017 and lost to the Washington Nationals in the 2019 Fall Classic.
"A lot of people are disappointed with the situation," Chapman said. "That's why the commissioner did an investigation. ... Hopefully, they take the right actions. I just feel that they put baseball in a bad spot. A lot of people have suffered because of it, because of what they did, and what came out of it."
The Yankees also lost to the Astros in seven games in the 2017 ALCS. Chapman joined fellow 2017 teammates CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka in expressing that he feels cheated for not getting to play in the 2017 World Series.
"I believe so, too," Chapman said. "It was very close, going back to 2017. With everything, all the details that have come out, it was the extra edge that allowed them to move on."
The Astros held a news conference to apologize on Thursday, and many felt players such as Altuve and third baseman Alex Bregman were less than forthcoming.
But what really stood out to Chapman was hearing Houston owner Jim Crane insist that the sign-stealing scandal had no impact on the team winning the title.
"I disagree with that," Chapman said. "When you know the signs and you know what's coming, especially at this level of baseball -- we have some of the most talented baseball players in the world -- as hitters, if they have an edge and advantage in knowing what's coming, it's going to make them stronger. Is that the sole reason they won the World Series? I don't know. But what I can say that when you have an advantage like that, it's definitely going to make you a stronger team."
New York manager Aaron Boone also took issue with Crane's comments.
"I think that's quite a stretch," Boone told reporters. "On what level did it impact things? I guess we'll never know and that's for people to draw their own conclusions on. I think clearly when we're talking about some of the things that went on, those things had an effect on games."
Yankees right-hander Luis Severino said he felt he was tipping pitches to the Astros in the 2017 ALCS but now knows it wasn't of his own doing.
"I was mad in the beginning," Severino told reporters. "There was a lot of things that go through your mind when you're pitching against a team that good. Sometimes you think about tipping, you spend hours in the video room looking at yourself, saying, 'What am I doing?' And then hearing that was the problem, I was not even tipping. That wasn't the problem."
One former Astros player, Marwin Gonzalez of the Minnesota Twins, said earlier this week that he was "remorseful for everything that happened in 2017."
Astros manager A.J. Hinch was fired due to the scandal, and it also led to the Boston Red Sox parting ways with manager Alex Cora (Houston's bench coach at the time) and the New York Mets moving on from recently hired manager Carlos Beltran (a Houston player at the time). Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow also was dismissed.
Luhnow and Hinch were suspended by Major League Baseball, which also fined the franchise $5 million and stripped the team of its draft picks in the first and second rounds over the next two seasons.
--Field Level Media