Bellinger on Astros, Red Sox: LA did it 'right way'

MALIBU, Calif. — The sign-stealing scandal that has engulfed Major League Baseball throughout the offseason centers mostly on two teams, the 2017 Houston Astros and the 2018 Boston Red Sox. An obvious link — the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers, coming off seven straight division titles but still in search of the franchise’s first championship since 1988, lost to both clubs in back-to-back World Series. And while no course of action will change the reality of consecutive runner-up finishes, perhaps a harsh punishment can provide the Dodgers with some semblance of vindication.

“Honestly, we’re curious to see what happens,” Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger said Sunday. “It sucks, man. We were close, but we did it the right way.”

The Red Sox and Astros reportedly did not, prompting an MLB investigation that could yield severe penalties. The Red Sox used their video replay room to decipher signs from opposing catchers, which were then relayed to baserunners who could inform hitters which pitch was coming, according to an initial report by The Athletic last week. The Astros set up a monitor just outside their dugout to steal signs and banged on trash cans to alert hitters when an off-speed pitch was coming.

Both practices apparently took place after a Sept. 15, 2017, league-wide memo in which MLB commissioner Rob Manfred warned teams of “more serious sanctions” if similar practices continued. Two anonymous sources told The Athletic that the Astros continued with their system during a postseason run that saw them go 8-1 at Minute Maid Park, though another source denied its extension into October 2017. The Red Sox allegedly used technology to steal signs the following season, though sources told The Athletic that they were unable to do so during the playoffs.

The Dodgers lost to the Astros in seven games, then to the Red Sox in five. Asked if the use of technology to steal signs extends beyond the Red Sox and Astros, Bellinger said: “I think it’s gotta come to an end unless it’s gonna be a disaster. I think we have to do something about it.”

Bellinger was attending the second annual celebrity softball game at Pepperdine University in support of the California Strong foundation, which sprouted in the wake of last year’s local wildfires and aims to provide financial assistance to those affected by natural disasters. Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton, Rams quarterback Jared Goff, mixed martial artist Chuck Liddell and actors Adam Sandler and Rob Lowe helped make up a star-studded guest list for an event that raised more than $500,000.

Bellinger’s presence was symbolic of his fast friendship with Milwaukee Brewers star Christian Yelich, who started the initiative alongside Ryan Braun and Mike Moustakas. Yelich was named National League MVP in 2018 and finished second to Bellinger in 2019. The two became close while shooting a popular MLB commercial about their friendly rivalry last summer and stayed in touch throughout the season.

“He was actually crashing at my house this weekend,” Yelich said. “We’ve been real good friends. That surprises people for some reason. I don’t know why people are so shocked to see us out to dinner or just hanging around town. They feel like we’re supposed to not like each other or something. I don’t really know why. It’s a fun rivalry, for sure. We’re both competitors, but we’re definitely friends as well.”

Yelich missed the final three weeks of the 2019 season because of a broken kneecap — he’s fully recovered now — and watched Bellinger finish his MVP campaign with a 1.035 OPS and 47 home runs. Bellinger joined Johnny Bench, Fred Lynn and Dustin Pedroia as the only players to win a Gold Glove, Rookie of the Year and MVP before turning 25, then set a record for a first-year arbitration-eligible player with an $11.5 million contract for 2020.

In the meantime, his Dodgers have been awfully quiet, adding only three low-cost pitchers in Blake Treinen, Jimmy Nelson and, more recently, Alex Wood. Bellinger is, like most everyone else, waiting for the Dodgers to secure a star player. But he doesn’t necessarily believe they need one.

“We won 106 games last year,” he said. “We’ve got a good team.”

The Dodgers’ 106-win season ended abruptly in the National League Division Series, when they lost in five games to the Washington Nationals. It marked the fourth consecutive year that the Dodgers were eliminated by the eventual World Series champions.

Two of those teams might have cheated to get there.

“We could’ve won it if things could’ve gone our way,” Bellinger said of the 2017 and ’18 World Series. “But it is what it is, man. You really can’t look back on it anymore. We’ll see what happens, what Manfred wants to do. We’ll see.”

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