Of all the members of the 2017 Houston Astros, former Vanderbilt player Tony Kemp may have the best excuse of all for his role in what happened in the club’s sign-stealing saga.
Kemp just said no.
In an Associated Press report, Kemp, who played at Centennial High School in Franklin, explained that when he was called up from the minor leagues that season and was given an opportunity to participate in the elaborate scheme to alert batters as to what kind of pitch was coming, he simply said he didn’t want to do it.
According to Kemp, he was happy with the way he was hitting the baseball and didn’t want to deviate from it. So his position is that he simply refused the offer to be part of the rule-breaking.
The numbers back up Kemp’s contention. By now, some of the best reporting on the Houston sign-stealing scandal has been by Astros fan Tony Adams, who spent 30 hours viewing Astros at-bats and logging times trash-can-banging could be heard during at-bats. The Astros’ method for stealing signs was to use a video monitor to decode what opposing catchers were calling for their pitchers to throw. Depending on the pitch coming, someone with the video information then pounded on a trash can in a code to tell an Astros batter what kind of pitch was on its way.
Adams came up with a team total of 1,143 bangs on 8,274 pitches. He broke down the number of bangs heard for each Astros batter. Kemp received no bang from the trash can. Not one. When Adams’ totals were first announced, the fact that Kemp had no bangs raised the question of why Kemp never received the aid of the system. His explanation that he just didn’t want the help matches what Adams found. Kemp simply didn’t want to participate and didn’t participate.
Adams found that Marwin Gonzalez, Carlos Beltran, George Springer and Alex Bregman got the highest number of trash can bangs in the scheme. Kemp, who played17 games and had 39 plate appearances that season, had 0 bangs on 23 pitches Adams charted. At the same time, Jose Altuve, who has been one of the principal figures in analysis of what the Astros were up to, received only 24 bangs out of 866 pitches. Gonzalez, on the other hand, received 147 bangs on 776 pitches, from Adams’ chart. The low number on Altuve, who won the American League Most Valuable Player Award that season, suggests a similar lack of interest in the system, as shortstop Carlos Correa said in an interview this week defending Altuve.
Kemp is now a member of the Oakland A’s having been dealt there after spending time with the Chicago Cubs. Kemp thus joins former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, whose public comments about the Astros’ cheating system broke the issue wide open, as a teammate.
The Astros’ first series of regular season road games this season is in Oakland.