Yankees general manager Brian Cashman remains troubled by the 2017...

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman remains troubled by the 2017 Astros' sign-stealing scandal, which he believes kept the Yankees out of the World Series. Credit: Getty Images

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Same church, different pew.

Brian Cashman’s published comments Wednesday to The Athletic — while a bit more fiery — mirrored what the Yankees' longtime general manager said two years earlier regarding the Astros' sign-stealing scandal and its potential impact on the 2017 Yankees, who lost to Houston in a seven-game ALCS. The Yankees lost all four games at Minute Maid Park.

“I definitely think it had an effect on things, without question,” Cashman said Feb. 14, 2020.  “Certainly, the Houston Astros were dealing with a distinct advantage more so than their opponents. That’s a fact. I don’t think anyone can disagree with that, even though they may try.”

Cashman, standing in the Yankees’ clubhouse that day, later said: “It's best for us now to start focusing on moving forward. What has happened in the past, obviously we're upset, our ownership is upset, our front office is upset, our players that were with us in '17 especially were upset, and understandably so. There's nothing we can do about that at this stage.”

It is accepted as gospel in some sectors of the Yankees' organization that the franchise would have captured their 28th World Series championship if not for the Astros and their sign-stealing plot, which included the banging of a trash can to relay what pitch was coming to hitters.

Cashman clearly is in that category. Despite saying two years ago that the focus was on “moving forward,” his comments to The Athletic showed that he hasn’t yet completely taken that leap.

"The only thing that stopped [the 2017 Yankees] was something that was so illegal and horrific," Cashman said. "So I get offended when I start hearing we haven't been to the World Series since '09. Because I'm like, 'Well, I think we actually did it the right way.' Pulled it down, brought it back up. Drafted well, traded well, developed well, signed well. The only thing that derailed us was a cheating circumstance that threw us off."

That statement, of course, is debatable.

The Yankees, who won all three games at the Stadium in that series, scored a total of three runs in the four games at Minute Maid Park. The sign-stealing scheme was designed to provide an edge to Astros hitters, and no one has suggested that their pitchers received assistance in shutting down opponents.

The lingering anger also would seem to have its limits.

The Yankees, for instance, recently signed Marwin Gonzalez, a member of the 2017 Astros, to serve in a needed reserve role and brought aboard Carlos Beltran, also a member of the ’17 Astros who was a major contributor to the sign-stealing scheme, as a YES broadcaster for this season.

Additionally, Cashman is an unabashed fan of Red Sox manager Alex Cora and his abilities — as many in the sport are, and for good reason — and the pair occasionally have been seen chatting amiably on the field before Yankees-Red Sox games. Cora served as bench coach for the 2017 Astros and was cited by MLB — whose investigation has never been viewed within the game as adequately comprehensive — as having more than a bit role in the scheme.

The sight of Cashman and Cora chatting like old friends is not well-received in every corner of the Yankees’ organization.

There’s also this: The 2017 Astros first beat the Red Sox in four games in the best-of-five Division Series, totaling 16 runs in the first two games at Minute Maid. The Red Sox, technically, should have first dibs on righteous anger regarding how things played out, but they long ago stopped talking about it. That could be because of Cora’s presence, but also this: The Red Sox and the Dodgers, who were beaten by the Astros in the 2017 World Series, have won the World Series since 2017.

Finally, the Yankees have questionable standing on the moral high ground. The club, for example, has been fighting to keep a letter from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to Cashman in 2017 — which relates to the team’s alleged involvement in sign-stealing — from being made public.

The letter is believed to relate to only minor violations — nothing close to what the Astros engaged in, certainly — one of which was the improper use of a dugout phone in a season before 2017. The letter arose from MLB’s investigation, prompted by a Yankees complaint into the Red Sox's illegal use of Apple Watches to steal opponents’ signs.   

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