Feb. 14 (UPI) — Former Houston Astros utility player Tony Kemp, who was called up by the organization in September 2017, said he declined to take part in the club’s illegal sign-stealing scheme.
“I was up and down [between the big leagues and minors] in 2017,” Kemp told reporters Friday. “Once I got there in September, the system was already in place. I just tried to keep my head down and play hard and not really concern myself with it.”
Kemp spent most of that 2017 season at the Triple-A level, appearing in only 17 games with the Astros. The 28-year-old utilityman said he was asked by teammates whether he wanted to be a part of the Astros’ system, but he made it clear that he wanted no involvement. He said he didn’t feel further pressure to participate.
“It was out of my hands at that point,” Kemp said. “Just having four months in the big leagues at that moment, once it got going, I got asked if I wanted to use the system and I said no. It was just one of those things where I felt I was having a good season at the plate in Triple-A and just wanted to continue to do that and not concern myself with it.”
Kemp noted that the Astros’ sign-stealing operation was wrong. When asked whether Houston’s 2017 World Series title was tainted, he said: “That’s a good question. Everyone’s going to have their own speculations about it, everyone’s going to have their own opinions about it. I’m not sure.”
Kemp, who was traded to the Oakland A’s from the Chicago Cubs on Jan. 13, reunites with former Astros teammate Mike Fiers, who has been at the center of the scandal after revealing the sign-stealing scheme in an interview with The Athletic in November. Fiers, now a starting pitcher for the A’s, had a conversation with Kemp this week about the issue.
“It went well,” Kemp said of the discussion. “I understand where he comes from. He’s my teammate now and he was my teammate in Houston. Nothing changes. Now we’re trying to win a division and we have a lot of guys in place ready for the challenge. I’m excited to play behind him again.”
Major League Baseball announced last month that a league investigation confirmed the Astros cheated during the regular season and postseason of their World Series-winning 2017 campaign.
According to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, the Astros used a camera-based system to steal signs of opposing teams during the 2017 season and parts of the 2018 campaign.
The sign-stealing scandal led to the suspension and subsequent firing of former Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow last month. The Astros organization was also fined a record $5 million and had multiple draft picks taken away.
The league’s investigation also impacted other MLB franchises. Former Astros bench coach Alex Cora lost his job as manager of the Boston Red Sox on Jan. 14, and ex-Astros player Carlos Beltran was removed from his managerial position with the New York Mets two days later.
Cora and Beltran were singled out in the league’s probe as the ringleaders of the sign-stealing scheme in 2017.