GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Astros scandal is the elephant in the room, but it’s a tame beast because the White Sox aren’t making a huge deal about left-hander Dallas Keuchel’s involvement with the 2017 team that cheated and won a World Series.
Players are seething about it, but Keuchel helped his standing by being the first player to express remorse for the Astros’ sign-stealing shenanigans at SoxFest, then again during the first week of spring training.
“That’s an interesting line that we’re tiptoeing because everybody everywhere is mad,” Sox right-hander Evan Marshall said Thursday. “Dallas, you respect the hell out what he’s done on the field as a player. No scandal can take away what he did as a Cy Young winner. It’s one of those things where nobody’s really talked to him about it. He’s made his public comments.”
So no cause for concern about a rift or tension in the clubhouse?
“With Dallas? No,” Marshall said. “He’s been just a great teammate in the short time he’s been here. A guy like that has a lot to offer as far as teaching the young players and really just leading by example. That’s really not the way you would envision that relationship going. Nobody’s approaching Dallas to yell at him about that. If guys want to talk about it, he’s approachable.”
Marshall and Keuchel disagree on whether the 2017 title should be stripped, but teammates aren’t shunning Keuchel, perhaps in part because hitters, not pitchers, benefitted directly from the illegal sign-stealing.
“We accept everybody,” shortstop Tim Anderson said. “That’s something he was [associated with], not something he’s doing. We just want to win. That situation has nothing to do with us.”
Anderson said the Sox are tired of talking and hearing about the Astros.
“They cheated, but that’s cool,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘Let them play — don’t suspend them. That way we go into Houston, we got to knock their heads off. For real, man.”
As for Keuchel, “everybody makes mistakes,” Anderson said. “It’s how you own up to it.”
And the way he did went a long way in the clubhouse, catcher James McCann said.
“He didn’t beat around the bush,” McCann said. “And from an individual-numbers [standpoint], did he really benefit from it? I don’t know, maybe wins and losses. Who knows exactly the truth? But for me personally, I believe he’s apologized and asked for forgiveness, so all I can do is pass my forgiveness on. There’s no judgment on my part.”
There’s anger about what happened, but no axes to grind with Keuchel.
“Everybody is mad,” Marshall said, “but Dallas is a great guy in the short time I’ve known him. With him signing a multiyear deal and being here for a while, that’s just a relationship we all want to start fresh now and build on and not worry about something that happened previously.
“Quietly, you can have individual conversations. Sure, you can pick his brain and say, ‘Hey, what happened here? Why was it happening? How deep does it go?’ But everyone just wants to move on to 2020.”
Keuchel said the Astros “earned the right to be World Series champs,” but Marshall believes a blank space should stand where the 2017 champion is listed “to remind everybody of what happened.”
“Maybe that would prevent it from happening in the future,” he said.
The Astros will be motivated to prove they can win without operating a scam. The teams that face them, including the Sox, also will be motivated.
“We’re coming for everyone the same way, but they have a little icing on their cake,” Anderson said. “They cheated so many games we played, we got to make it sweet for them. Keep ’em in there, let them play. We’re trying to knock everybody’s heads off, from the owner down to the trainer. Everybody, it don’t matter. If you’re a Houston Astro, we’re coming.”