Braves: How should we feel about Brian McCann?

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019 will forever be remembered inside the world of baseball, as the day Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich — writers with The Athletic — released a damning article (subscription required) that served as the first report of the Houston Astros’ blatant cheating. A total of 311 wins, an AL MVP award (by Jose Altuve), two AL pennants, and a 2017 World Series title all immediately tainted as Rosenthal and Drellich’s 2,500-word write-up provided the accusations and evidence needed to begin a mega-investigation by MLB and commissioner Rob Manfred.

Fast-forward to now, and the outlook isn’t much better. Managers A.J. Hinch, Alex Cora, and Carlos Beltran were fired, with the latter out with the Mets before even managing his first game. The Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow was also canned, and now there are new reports surfacing — from the Wall Street Journal — that Lunhow had corroborated with an Astros’ intern, creating an Excel algorithm named “Codebreaker.” Oh, and Hinch was recently interviewed by SI’s Tom Verducci, where the former manager completely deflected a question about the Astros cheating via buzzers:

Just beautiful.

Now the cheating done by the Astros didn’t directly impact the Braves, though coincidentally Houston was 4-0 against Atlanta from 2017-19 while outscoring the Braves 38-13; well, at least not like it did the LA Dodgers or NY Yankees — two teams that have lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Astros over the years, including incredibly crucial games during the postseason.

But there is one aspect of this mess going on in Houston that does impact us Braves fans… and that’s catcher Brian McCann.

Since the terrible news broke regarding the Astros sign-stealing scandal, there has been very little said coming out of Houston, both from current and former players. Last season’s exciting Braves’ pick-up Dallas Keuchel (now with the White Sox) attempted a half-hearted apology a few weeks ago, though most of it made very little sense:

But other than a few deflections from various Astros’ players, essentially all who were involved in the scandal have remained quiet, including McCann, who has seemingly always been a person never afraid to speak his mind… until now. Although at first, I have to admit, at least for me… that McCann’s silence suggested that maybe he wasn’t involved in the Astros’ cheating, that perhaps McCann was just caught in the middle of a bad situation —  as naive as that sounds. But then more details emerged.

Several weeks ago, a man by the name of Tony Adams — an avid Astros fan, who apparently knows a ton about programming — decided to find out for himself exactly how much the Astros cheated, creating an impressive log of every single “bang of the trash can” during Astros’ home games in 2017. Adams watched and logged over 8,200 pitches and even created a website,

The data is impressive, as Adams didn’t just log every “bang” that he heard, but he also went many steps further, providing in-depth analysis regarding every player involved. Unfortunately, my hope for McCann quickly withered away.


astros bangs team total 2


Unless McCann was going to bat and never aware of the banging going on in the background — which is very doubtful — he was very much a part of the Astros’ cheating, at least during the 2017 season when the team played at Minute Maid Park. Granted, McCann’s “banged at-bats” are nowhere near as significant as some of the other Houston players examined in Adams’ research, but he was still within the top-half amongst the team — both in terms of the number of “banged at-bats” and percentage of the pitches he faced involving a bang. Here’s the top-10, with McCann ranking 9th out of 19 listed players by Adams:

(sorted by total bangs, with % of pitches included)

  1. Marwin Gonzalez: 147 | 18.9%
  2. George Springer: 139 | 14.9%
  3. Carlos Beltran:138 | 18.1%
  4. Alex Bregman: 133 | 16.6%
  5. Yuli Gurriel:120 | 17.9%
  6. Carlos Correa: 97 | 16.3%
  7. Jake Marisnick:83 | 22.8%
  8. Evan Gattis:71 | 16.6%
  9. Brian McCann: 45 | 8.9%
  10. Josh Reddick: 28 | 3.9%

A bang was featured in 45 of the 507 pitches thrown McCann’s way during home games in the 2017 season, certainly not the most on the team, but definitely not the least either. According to Adams’ data, the entire Astros’ team incorporated their banging scheme on 1,143 of the 8,274 total pitches at home that season (just 13.8%), so they obviously didn’t cheat on every single pitch (at least that we know of). But what do we make of the data pertaining to McCann?

Should we be angry with him? Should we expect an explanation?

I mean, the guy spent ten seasons with the Braves — counting 2019 — and was (and still is) an all-time fan favorite, playing in seven All-Star games, winning five Silver Slugger awards and even receiving down-ballot MVP votes in 2010, when he hit .269 with 21 home runs and 77 RBI. McCann is no doubt a Braves legend, tallying a ridiculous total of 42.5 fWAR during his first stint in Atlanta — an average of 4.7 WAR per season… as a catcher! But does McCann’s inclusion among the Astros’ cheaters erase all of those accolades? Shouldn’t he be saying something by now?

During one of David O’Brien and Eric O’Flaherty’s podcast episodes last month, O’Flaherty said something that made sense, basically stating that there’s nothing really to gain by McCann coming out with an explanation. The proof is already out, McCann was intertwined in this scandal. Any reasoning or statement by the catcher will only look like some form of an excuse or simply a lie.

I mostly agree with O’Flaherty. He’s right that nothing good will come out of it, but at this point, perhaps it doesn’t matter. The cats out of the bag and everyone knows that the Astros cheated. And though McCann — who retired from baseball after last season — doesn’t necessarily owe Braves Country anything, him addressing his involvement regarding this scandal would go a long way. If nothing else, he could be the first player involved to come clean about the team’s mistakes, and even more, give out the first legitimate apology. 

There is one promising sign, however, regarding McCann. In Rosenthal and Drellich’s most recent findings, they did mention the former Braves backstop as one of the veteran leaders that went up to Carlos Beltran — who appears to be the ring-leader in all of this — and told him to stop. Here’s the excerpt from The Athletic

During the season, small groups of Astros discussed their misgivings. McCann at one point approached Beltrán and asked him to stop, two members of the 2017 team said.

I don’t think this completely exonerates McCann or any of the Astros for that matter, but it is encouraging to see an All-Time Braves great at least attempted to stop what can only be referred to as an abomination. Still, hearing his side of the story might provide a refreshing bit of transparency regarding this mess. 




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