Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa is once again sticking up for his team as the fallout from its cheating scandal continues to reverberate throughout Major League Baseball.
In an interview with The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal published Saturday, Correa explained why Jose Altuve "never cheated" and was telling teammates not to rip his jersey after hitting a walk-off homer against New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman in Game 6 of the 2019 American League Championship Series:
"Earlier in the year, he hit a walk-off at Minute Maid Park; I ripped off his shirt with Tony Kemp. There are pictures of that. There are videos of that. You can go look at it. I ripped off his shirt, and his wife told my wife, 'Why is Carlos ripping Altuve's shirt? I don't like that.'
"So when he's running from third base to home plate, I'm the guy up front. The first one waiting for him. He's like, 'Don't take my shirt off.' The second reason — he doesn't want me to talk about this, but I'm going to say it, is because he's got an unfinished tattoo on his collarbone that honestly looked terrible. It was a bad tattoo, and he didn't want nobody to see it. He didn't want to show it at all. ...
"But Altuve has never cheated. ... He hit that home run off (Aroldis) Chapman fair and square. He was not wearing buzzers. That's a story that a fake account on Twitter broke, and then people just got on that wagon and started talking about the buzzers. Like, no. Nobody thought about buzzers. Nobody was using buzzers."
Correa also responded to Los Angeles Dodgers star Cody Bellinger's saying Houston stole the World Series from L.A. and that Altuve cheated to win the American League MVP over Aaron Judge in 2017:
"Cody, you don't know the facts. Nobody wants to talk about this, but I'm going to talk about this. Jose Altuve was the one guy that didn't use the trash can. ...
"(Bellinger) said that they all lost respect for us. But that's not how life works. ...
"But like I said before, what doesn't sit well with me is when you say false statements. If you don't know the facts. If you're not informed. This is America. You can say whatever you want. But Cody Bellinger's job is to look for information. Get informed. Know the facts, for sure, before he stands in front of cameras to talk about other players. You should get informed. You should be informed before you talk about other players. If you don't know the facts, then you've got to shut the f--k up."
Mike Fiers, who pitched for the Astros from 2015-17 and currently plays for the Oakland Athletics, blew the whistle on Houston's cheating scandal and how it worked in a report by Rosenthal and Evan Drellich released in November.
“That’s not playing the game the right way,” Fiers explained. “They were advanced and willing to go above and beyond to win.”
Correa thinks Fiers should apologize for publicly discussing the scheme because he received a World Series ring from the Astros' championship team in 2017:
In the wake of Houston's press conference Thursday, in which owner Jim Crane said the sign-stealing had no impact on games, Bellinger sounded off on the situation.
"Those guys were cheating for three years," the reigning National League MVP told reporters. "I think what people don't realize is Altuve stole an MVP from Judge in 2017. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us. But it's over."
Bellinger added, "I would say everyone in The Show, in the big leagues, lost respect for those guys."
The Astros reported to spring training this week, marking the first time the team has been together since AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired for their roles in the cheating scandal and the organization was fined $5 million and forced to forfeit its top two draft picks in 2020 and 2021.
The response from players throughout MLB to Houston's news conference and seeming lack of remorse for cheating has been highly critical.
In an interview with The Athletic's C. Trent Rosecrans, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer called Bregman and the Astros "hypocritical" in reference to their trash-talking and bragging while the team was cheating.
Houston will hold its first official team workout Monday at its spring training complex in West Palm Beach, Florida. Its first spring training game is next Saturday against the Washington Nationals.