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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — New York Yankees star Aaron Judge feels the Houston Astros should be stripped of their 2017 World Series championship.
“You cheated and you didn't earn it,” Judge said Tuesday after the Yankees' first full-squad workout. “That's how I feel. It wasn't earned. It wasn't earned the way of playing the game right and fighting to the end and knowing that we're competing, we're competitors. The biggest thing about competition is laying it all out on the line, and whoever is the better player, better person comes out on top. To know that another team had an advantage that, nothing you can really guard against, I just don't feel like that's earned.”
Major League Baseball concluded the Astros used a video camera to steal catcher's signs in 2017, including during the postseason, and in 2018. Manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for one season each, then were fired by the team. Houston was fined $5 million and stripped of its next two first- and second-round draft picks.
"It affected a lot of games, no matter what anybody says," Judge said. "It affected the game big time. People lost jobs, people lost money, people lost a lot of things important to them."
No players were punished by MLB.
"I wasn't a fan of the punishment, I thought that was a little weak for a player-driven scheme," Judge said, “that no players involved got any punishments."
Houston beat the Yankees in a seven-game AL Championship Series in 2017, winning all four home games, and defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in a seven-game World Series.
"To hear that you got cheated out of that opportunity, that's tough to kind of let go," Judge said.
Judge finished second to the Astros' José Altuve in that year's voting for AL MVP.
Judge backed the position of Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish, who felt the penalties imposed by baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred were insufficient.
“I think Darvish was the one that said, if you're playing in the Olympics and win a gold medal and find that you cheated, you don't get to keep that medal,” Judge said.
He agreed with teammate Gleyber Torres, who said Monday that he thought the Astros also broke rules in 2019 when the Yankees lost the AL Championship Series in six games.
“To think that they cheated and won it all in '17, to think that they just clear-cut stopped '19 or '18, it's tough for me to say that,” Judge said. But we'll never really now, to be honest."
Manfred said Sunday he wasn't 100% sure the Astros didn't violate rules in 2019 but it was his best judgment that they didn't.
Judge said the whole Yankees team is “driven" this year after the Astros scandal and falling just short of a pennant twice in three years.
“There's a different level of focus,” Judge said. “These boys are ready. We got to go out there and finish it this year.”
The sign stealing will remain on Judge's mind.
“It's always going to be in the back of your head a little bit,” Judge said. “You're always going to have that bad taste in your mouth, thinking about it and hearing about it, but at some point we're going to move on and we're going to move forward and continue growing this game. That's what I care about is growing this game."
Judge did not hit or throw because of what the team said was a minor right shoulder issue.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said the problem is not considered serious and Judge could start to ramp up activities in a couple days. Judge is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.
"Just dealing with some crankiness, a little soreness in his shoulder," Boone said. “I feel like it's a pretty minor thing. Just something we wanted to try and get ahead of while we're at this point at this point in the calendar.”
Judge had a number of tests, including an MRI, and did conditioning.
"I just felt a little soreness in the shoulder," Judge said. “Nothing alarming.”
The outfielder hit .272 with 27 homers with 55 RBIs in 102 games last season. He was on the injured list from April 21 to June 21 with a left oblique strain.
CF Brett Gardner said he has some pretty strong feelings and opinions about the Astros but that he was going to keep mostly to himself.
“Definitely something that's bad for the game of baseball, bad for the fans,” Gardner said. “Hope that moving forward. we'll continue to all work collectively as players, all 30 teams in Major League Baseball, to continue to have as even of a playing field as possible. Definitely I'm disappointed and frustrated by what went on."
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