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Keon Broxton returns to Brewers after whirlwind year

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The Milwaukee Brewers have signed outfielder Keon Broxton to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league training camp.

Broxton returns to Milwaukee after playing for the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners and New York Mets in 2019.

His nomadic year began with a trade from the Brewers to the Mets in January, then he was dealt again to the Orioles in May. Baltimore waived him in July, and he finished the season in Seattle.

Broxton hit .167 with six home runs and 16 RBIs in 204 at-bats last season. He is a career .209 hitter with 39 home runs and 95 RBIs in five major league seasons.

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Fans want Astros players punished for sign-stealing scandal

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More than half of Major League Baseball fans believe Houston Astros players should have been penalized along with team management in the aftermath of the sign-stealing scandal that has gripped the game over the past week, according to an online survey conducted among 1,010 adults, including 810 MLB fans, nationwide Thursday and Friday on behalf of ESPN.

Fifty-eight percent of adults responded that Astros players should have been penalized by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, according to the survey. In addition, the vast majority (72% of adults and 76% of MLB fans) said they would support MLB taking additional steps to punish players who were involved in sign stealing.

According to the survey, MLB fans are paying a lot of attention to the scandal, with 61% of the game’s fans polled saying they are closely following events involving the Astros and Boston Red Sox. One-third of MLB fans say they might watch those two teams less, though most Americans say the doping/steroids scandal was worse than the current sign-stealing scandal that led the Astros to fire general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch, with the Red Sox parting with manager Alex Cora, a former Astros bench coach.

The New York Mets were not involved in a sign-stealing scandal, but parted with new manager Carlos Beltran, who was involved with the scandal while a player with the Astros. The survey was started before Beltran and the Mets parted.

Among avid MLB fans, 86% view the situation as serious, with 57% saying it’s very serious, compared to 83% of the game’s overall fans considering it serious, including 52% who say it’s a very serious situation. Among all Americans, 77% find it serious, with 45% finding it to be very serious.

Most Americans say the doping/steroids scandal was worse than this one (49% say doping was worse vs 24% who say the current sign stealing scandal was worse) but rank this scandal above Pete Rose gambling on his own team (44% say this scandal is worse vs 25% for the Pete Rose scandal).

While over half of Americans view both the Astros (56%) and Red Sox (52%) less favorable in light of the scandals, the negative impact is less severe for the MLB, the players, and the owners, with 54% saying their views of MLB itself are unchanged and 53% saying their views of their players haven’t changed. Just under half (49%) say their views of the game’s owners have changed, although around a third or slightly more say they have a less favorable view of each of these entities or groups.

Among MLB fans, it’s about an even split when it comes to whether the teams caught cheating should have their championships stripped, with 56% saying the Astros should relinquish their 2017 championship and 53% believing the Red Sox should do the same.

While 60% of adults and MLB fans alike say the scandals make no difference in their likelihood to watch MLB games, around a third of fans say they are less likely to watch the Astros or the Red Sox.

Roughly 3 in 4 Americans (74%) and MLB fans (76%) believe most teams were using technology to steal signs, but it’s just the Astros and Red Sox who got caught.

The survey has a margin of error of +/-3%, and the margin of error among 810 MLB fans is also +/-3%.

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Yu Darvish left with more questions in aftermath of Astros scandal

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CHICAGO — In the aftermath of the Astros‘ cheating scandal, Yu Darvish has been left wondering: Was he tipping pitches during the 2017 World Series or were Houston players stealing signs?

In the two-plus years since, the right-hander had thought it was the latter. He was rocked by the Astros that postseason while a member of the Dodgers, and Houston players afterward told him he was tipping pitches.

But now, after a Major League Baseball investigation found that the Astros illegally stole signs that year, Darvish isn’t so sure.

“That’s what I want to know,” he said Friday at the Chicago Cubs‘ winter fan convention.

“A couple of Astros players told me I was tipping pitches, but now it comes out they were stealing signs. Was I tipping or were they stealing?”

Such questions have mounted throughout baseball since MLB commissioner Rob Manfred unveiled the league’s report on the Astros on Monday.

For Darvish, it hit especially close to home.

While with the Dodgers, he had a combined 1.59 ERA in the 2017 NL division and championship series. But against Houston in the World Series, his ERA ballooned to 21.60. He gave up four runs in 1.2 innings in Game 3 in Houston, then got hit hard again in Game 7 in Los Angeles, taking the loss as the Astros captured their first World Series title.

It’s left Darvish with more questions than answers.

“I know they were stealing signs, but at the same time I was not good during the World Series,” he said.

His World Series struggles likely had long-term results, as well.

He was a free agent after that season, and the Cubs later admitted teams may been scared off by Darvish’s performance against the Astros, giving Chicago an easier path to signing him to a six-year, $126 million contract.

It also took Darvish time to mentally recover from the two losses. Coupled with arm issues that ended his 2018 season prematurely, it wasn’t exactly the best stretch of his career, and he’s still wondering if what Houston did contributed.

“I’m better for what I went through,” Darvish said. “But, yeah, everyone is wondering about pitching against them.

“It’s tough to pitch. We’re losing the strike zone. It’s getting smaller. They want [us] to [pitch] quicker. And the hitters are stealing signs.”

Cubs pitchers hope the playing field will be level after the league completes its investigations. MLB also is probing whether the Boston Red Sox used video to decode opponents’ sign sequences and passed the information to their players in 2018, as alleged in a report by The Athletic.

Cubs players echoed what many others in the game have said: The Astros aren’t the only ones cheating.

“You just don’t know to what extent,” right-hander Kyle Hendricks said. “Is it legal sign stealing or illegal? Hopefully this offseason will eliminate that stuff.”

Cubs president Theo Epstein praised the league’s beefed-up investigation arm for its due diligence in the scandal. Both Epstein and star first baseman Anthony Rizzo are adamant the Cubs have never gained an edge using technology in that manner.

The goal is for no team to be able to do it.

“We applaud Major League Baseball’s efforts to step up in this situation and make sure the games are played with integrity,” Epstein said.

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Red Sox CEO says no notable progress in search; fans back Jason Varitek

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CEO Sam Kennedy said the Boston Red Sox haven’t made any notable progress in the search for a new manager as of late Friday but would like to have one in place for the start of spring training in mid-February.

“It’s got to be someone who fits the culture of this team and has a knowledge of what it’s going to take to put a championship team on the field in 2020,” Kennedy said during the team’s winter festival Friday in Springfield, Massachusetts. “It’s a tall task to get someone in place, but Chaim (Bloom) and (Brian O’Halloran) will get it done for sure.”

If it was up to the fans, the answer would be easy: Jason Varitek.

Supporters in Springfield pleaded for Boston’s front office to hire the former catcher and team captain as a replacement to Alex Cora, whom the team parted way with Wednesday due to his involvement in a cheating scandal while bench coach for the Houston Astros in 2017.

Members of the team’s leadership group were hit with “Hire ‘Tek!” chants throughout Friday night, and principal owner John Henry was interrupted several times by fans voicing their support. Henry paused and nodded in acknowledgement, and Bloom, the team’s new chief baseball officer, used the opportunity to appease the crowd.

“I think if you poll the audience, they would just get this done right now,” Bloom said to big applause.

Fans also peppered retired Red Sox legends David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez with questions about the managerial vacancy during a separate panel.

Ortiz was asked if he would accept a managerial or front office job with the team but said that he wasn’t at a good point in his life to do so.

The 44-year-old former designated hitter is still recovering after being shot last June in what authorities called a case of mistaken identity in his native Dominican Republic.

“One day I will be (ready),” Ortiz said.

Martinez said that whoever the Red Sox settle on will be the right choice.

“I guarantee you whoever comes over to manage this great team that we have, it’s probably gonna be the closest to the perfect person that we could ever get,” Martinez said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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