Sounds of spring won't let Astros forget cheating scandal

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Houston Astros' Jose Altuve carries a bat as he heads out to hit during spring training baseball practice Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – These are the new sounds of spring for the Houston Astros: a fan banging on a trash can, another calling José Altuve a cheater.

That's what greeted the Astros during their first full-squad workout at camp Monday. And with so many around baseball not ready to forgive or forget their sign stealing, this won’t be the last time they hear it.

Meanwhile, the two-time AL champions say they are focused on ignoring the noise, and hope the official start of spring training can signal a step forward for their scandal-ridden team.

“I understand the severity of the situation, I truly do,” outfielder George Springer said. “But I think ... the best thing for our game to try to do and especially for us is to try to put this behind us, however that’s possible.”

The Astros have been bombarded with questions about the sign-stealing scam since arriving in Florida. A news conference last week with owner Jim Crane, Altuve and third baseman Alex Bregman featuring poorly worded apologies was roundly criticized and did little to quiet the furor around the league in the wake of the scandal.

The barbs continued Monday when fans were allowed to view Houston’s workout. A man banged on a trash can while a group including Bregman, Altuve and shortstop Carlos Correa took batting practice.

Altuve, considered one of baseball's most popular players before the scandal was revealed, quickly discovered the new norm. As he walked past a group of fans, a man yelled out, “Cheater!"

The Astros were found by Commissioner Rob Manfred to have cheated during their run to the 2017 World Series and again in the 2018 season. The investigation found that Houston used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s chances of getting a hit.