Collin McHugh only pitched in two postseason games during the Houston Astros’ championship run in 2017, but the new Boston Red Sox right-hander was open in assessing the cheating scandal that has tarnished that title.
“You’ve got to be willing to stick up for what you believe in and what you believe is right and what you believe is wrong,” McHugh said Friday. “And I think a lot of the guys on that team, including myself, are looking back now and wishing we had been as brave in the moment as we thought we were beforehand.”
The Astros were found to have used a system that allowed players in real time to study video of catchers’ signs and relay that information to batters at the plate via banging on trash cans. As a result, Houston had a significant edge against pitchers it faced at home.
“To put myself in the shoes of the guys who pitched against us in 2017 and to know that our hitters made that job that much harder that year — it’s hard to swallow. And I feel for them and I understand the anger and I understand when people are mad and pissed off,” McHugh said. “I get it. I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to be out there and feel like a team has your signs. It’s a lonely place.”
McHugh, who was limited to just 12 regular-season starts in 2017 due to arm injuries, said he’s been “thinking about (the scandal) a lot,” but that he and his teammates simply failed to do the right thing.
“Sign stealing is universally across the board bad for pitchers. And we know that. It made our jobs harder,” McHugh said. “And we truly believed — or we were made to believe — that it was happening to us, too. And we don’t know if that was true or not, but that’s not justification for doing anything. Just because you think they’re doing it is not justification for doing something you know is not right.”
According to McHugh, the situation put pitchers on the 2017 team in a strange position. They were complicit in the cheating but, being on an American League team, the Astros’ pitchers could never take advantage of the scheme in the batter’s box.
“Looking back, I don’t know what we could have done as pitchers,” McHugh said. “It wasn’t really our territory. Maybe we could’ve gotten together and somehow tried to stop it. Yeah, it was tough watching that. You feel for guys out there who are working their tails off whether they’re on your team or against you. I love seeing good pitching and it took some really good pitching that year to beat us.”
The Red Sox, who are under MLB investigation for allegations of sign stealing during the 2018 season, added McHugh on Thursday on a one-year, $600,000 contract that could end up paying the 32-year-old as much as $4.25 million.
McHugh, who spent the past six seasons with Houston, is not expected to be on Boston’s Opening Day roster as he continues to recover from a flexor injury.
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