HOUSTON — The Houston Astros are the New England Patriots. They win a championship, and everyone thinks they are cheating.
The 2018 American League Championship Series took on a new dimension at Minute Maid Park this week when the Boston Metro first reported that a guy with a camera working for the Astros was kicked out of the photographer’s well by the first base dugout at Fenway Park during Game 1. Turns out the same guy got the heave-ho in Cleveland when the ’Stros were beating up on the Tribe in the Division Series.
Perfect. Spygate comes to baseball. Next thing you know the Astros will be accused of deflating baseballs.
In the middle of all this we have Alex Cora, who is the Red Sox manager but last year won a championship with the Astros. The Astros evidently think he’s ratting them out now that he’s trying to beat Houston with his new team.
I am not the first to conclude that this makes Cora the new Eric Mangini.
You remember Mangini, right? Won a ring with the Patriots, was hired away by the New York Jets, then told NFL security about Bill Belichick’s camera tricks. The Jets caught the Patriots videotaping coaches’ signals at the Meadowlands and a price was paid. Mangini became dead to Bill, as in I knew it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart.
The Astros claim they were only “playing defense” when they were aiming cameras toward the Red Sox dugout. I asked Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow if the Astros are particularly worried about Boston because of Cora and he said, “He worked for us last year, so clearly he knows everything that we’re doing. That’s the way it works in baseball.
“Players and coaches and front office members go from one organization to another from one year to the next. So I think he has a general feeling for what’s going on.’’
And the Red Sox — along with some other teams — think the Astros are getting away with technological sign stealing.
I texted Indians manager Terry Francona to ask if he had concerns about what the Astros were up to in the ALDS (a Houston sweep) and he deflected, saying, “I think they’re just good,’’ but he conceded that suspicion about Houston is rampant.
Sounding very Patriot-like, Luhnow concluded, “When a team has success, there’s going to be a lot of people looking at them.’’
Where have I heard that one before? It’s right out of the Bob Kraft “jealousy and envy” playbook.
Patriots = Astros.
While the Patriots had Matt Estrella, Matt Walsh, Jimmy “Hotfingers” McNally, and John “Dorito Dink” Jastremski, the Astros have a young man named Kyle McLaughlin.
McLaughlin was the one with the camera at Fenway, and there are photographs of him wearing an Astros badge and standing alongside team owner Jim Crane (who bears a remarkable resemblance to Archie Manning) with the owner’s private plane in the background. McLaughlin deleted the Astros from his Instagram biography sometime Tuesday.
“He’s a young man still in college,’’ said Luhnow. “To put him in an article, to put his picture out there is very irresponsible.’’
Maybe better to not send the kid out to do the dirty work.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch said he knew nothing about the McLaughlin shenanigans, adding, “Competitively, on the field, we had no idea.’’
Meanwhile, Luhnow insisted that the Astros were spying on Boston only to protect themselves from Sox chicanery.
“When we go to opposing ballparks, we look around,’’ said the GM. “We’re going to continue to have our eyes open . . . We want to make sure our players have the best chance out there.’’
Boston’s baseball bosses want MLB to come at the Astros with the full fury of Arlen Specter and Marshall Faulk, but it needs to be said that the Sox are not without sin in these matters.
Just last year they were fined by MLB after they were caught in a relay scheme involving video folks text-messaging a team trainer.
MLB said it was going to crack down “next time.” But that did not happen. MLB issued a short statement Wednesday, clearing the Astros of wrongdoing and stating that it considers the case closed.
So there. No Wells Report. No $1 million fine. No loss of a first-round draft pick. No 20-game suspension for Justin Verlander at the start of next season.
Where’s Judge Richard Berman when we need him?
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.