Houston Astros: The next sign-stealing casualties

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 19: George Springer #4 of the Houston Astros celebrates as he runs the bases after a home run by Jose Altuve #27 in the ninth inning against the Houston Astros during Game Six of the League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 19, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 19: George Springer #4 of the Houston Astros celebrates as he runs the bases after a home run by Jose Altuve #27 in the ninth inning against the Houston Astros during Game Six of the League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 19, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

Alex Bregman

As much as Altuve, Bregman’s reputation was damaged by implication.

Among the lasting post-season images that got new life through  all of this was that of Bregman delivering a big hit and then rushing back to the dugout to impart some unknown inside tidbit to his fellow players. In more innocent contexts, that sort of interchange would be natural. In the present context, it is implicative.

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The jeopardy to Bregman’s image is only intensified by his practice over the past several seasons to thrust himself into the team’s limelight as a brash, confident, often defiant on-field spokesman. This week’s events force him to adopt one of two utterly contrary approaches to public appearances: either shut up completely and in doing so lose his natural mojo or fess up…and lose his mojo.

For Bregman, there is no third way. His natural instinct, a “go ahead and stop me” defiance, is impossible to maintain in the context of the Manfred report.

Bregman had a chance to do that when the team gathered to address this at the start of spring training. He apologized, but was extremely  guarded in discussing  his own responsibility.

In large measure, because he’s only 25, the potential damage to Bregman’s Hall of Fame reputation is harder to pin down, but it exists. His age 25 comparables are Jim Thome, Nolan Arenado, Scott Rolen and Kris Bryant; Thome’s in the Hall and it’s plausible to envision both Arenado and Bryant someday getting in.