"I noticed the banging on the bat," Trout said Monday morning during his first media session of the 2020 season. "It just feels like they weren't missing pitches."
Trout, the Los Angeles Angels center fielder from Millville, New Jersey who is widely considered the face of baseball, joined the long list of established major league players taking pointed shots at the Houston Astros, who have been tainted by the cheating scandal that might have helped them secure the 2017 World Series championship.
Trout's Angels weren't impacted by the Astros' sign-stealing methods during the postseason, but as a division rival that plays them nearly 20 times each season, they might have been among those most affected.
Mike Trout found Jose Altuve's walk-off shirt incident a little suspicious. pic.twitter.com/YJBcjbaYGy— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 17, 2020
"It's sad for baseball," Trout said. "It's tough. They cheated. I don't agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing. It sucks, too, because guys' careers have been affected, a lot of people lost jobs. It was tough. Me going up to the plate knowing what was coming -- it would be pretty fun up there."
Trout, a three-time American League MVP at 28, wouldn't venture a guess at what his batting average would look like if he knew which pitches were coming. "But it would be fun," he repeated. Trout said a few members of the Astros reached out personally to explain what happened, but it didn't sound as if that was good enough.
"I lost some respect for some guys," Trout said.
Mike Trout rips sign-stealing Astros, calls for bigger punishment.— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) February 17, 2020
"It’s tough. They cheated. I don’t agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing."
More from @gregbeacham: https://t.co/3MfXZvVBI6 pic.twitter.com/OqEsQO5yNi
His new teammateAnthony Rendonbrings an interesting perspective to all of this.
Rendon was born and raised in Houston and grew up a die-hard fan of Astros teams featuring Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Derek Bell. His friends and family back home remain ardent fans of the team.
"It definitely stung a little bit different," Rendon said.
Rendon was speaking less than four months after his Washington Nationals defeated the Astros in seven games to win the 2019 World Series. A report by the Washington Post detailed how the Nationals were made aware of the Astros' sign-stealing practices and took appropriate measures before confronting them in late October.
Major League Baseball's investigation stated that the Astros did not illegally use technology to steal signs in 2019, but several players throughout the league have openly refuted that. Rendon is among those.
"Guys around the league talked, and so we kind of heard about this for a long time," he said. "At least I have. I've known about it, so, it's always in the back of your mind."
Rendon nonetheless offered more sympathy toward the Astros than most of his peers have.
"Everyone's quick to hammer them down," Rendon said. "At the end of the day, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror. We're not perfect."
Trout's comments came in the wake of harsh criticism levied by the likes of Cody Bellinger, Kris Bryant and Trevor Bauer. While he spoke, Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner hammered MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, calling him "out of touch" for referring to the World Series trophy as "a piece of metal."
Trout didn't like it that none of the players was punished, but he couldn't offer a solution. The eight-time All-Star found himself engulfed in the social media madness when a man named David Brosius, son of longtime major league player and coach Scott Brosius, wrote in an Instagram response that Trout uses a "loophole" to take human growth hormone to treat a thyroid condition.
The post, and the popularity it gained through Twitter, prompted MLB and the MLB Players' Association to release a statement saying no player has ever been granted a therapeutic use exemption for HGH, essentially clearing Trout's name.
Trout was up on a tree stand hunting when it all went down.
"I didn't really think anything of it because it's not true," Trout said. "One person tweets it out and everyone gets a hold of it and sees it, everyone wonders about it. It is what it is."