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Astros Fire GM and Manager; Justice Department Pressures Apple; Final Debate Before Iowa. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 14, 2020 - 08:30   ET



BOB COSTAS, LEGENDARY SPORTSCASTER: Will be next week or next year, MLB and other sports have to get ahead of it and draw a very decisive line in the sand, which Rob Manfred, the commissioner, did yesterday with is pen (ph) at least, and then Jim Crane, as you said, doubled down by firing both Luhnow and A.J. Hinch.

Very clear that if you use technology, once the game is underway -- technology is part of modern sports, studying video, all that --

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Cameras, TVs, cell phones.

COSTAS: All that stuff. Yes. Look at it this way, you can do anything you want within reason to prepare to take the SAT, but when you go in to take the SAT, none of that technology comes with you. Whatever you've learned and studied prior to is one thing, then you've got to take the test. So once the -- once the first pitch is thrown and until the last pitch of the game, the idea is, no technology.

BERMAN: The signs are to figure out what the pitcher is going to throw.


BERMAN: And if you know what the pitcher is going to throw, chances are you have a much better chance of hitting it.

COSTAS: Not only to hit it, but to lay off of it.

BERMAN: Right.

COSTAS: Because the idea of non-fastballs is deception. So if you're -- if you're looking fastball and you're fooled, then perhaps you chase that pitch. So it's not just what you swing at, it's what you don't swing at.

BERMAN: And now the Astros, Major League Baseball found, didn't just steal signs using their wits and cameras and monitors --


BERMAN: But, boy, they devised this incredible, intricate system. Again, explain what they did. COSTAS: Well, there's now a replay monitor in every dugout or down the

tunnel nearby because you can challenge calls. And so they were using the center field camera, the shot that's -- you see 95 percent of the time on a regular telecast. This is -- you can also have your own camera stealing signs, but just the regular telecast of a game is almost always from the center field camera. You can see the catcher's signs. And if you're sophisticated enough, perhaps you can decode them.

And so they were using that system to decode signs and then they had what doesn't seem like a very sophisticated system, they were taking a bat and banging it on a trash can. No bang on the crash can, fastball. A bang on the trash can, some sort of off-speed pitch.

BERMAN: And just to put in perspective why this matters in particular, the Houston Astros won the World Series in 2017.


BERMAN: And the Red Sox, who are implicated in a different way, they won in 2018. You're talking about two out of the last three world champions.

COSTAS: Yes, and it could have been all three because the Astros barely lost this past October's World Series in seven games to the Nats. Alex Cora was the bench coach, the lieutenant for A.J. Hinch in 2017. He's implicated in the charges against the Astros. Now he's the manager of the Red Sox. So it isn't just the prominence of these two teams, but also Hinch and Cora universally regarded as two of the best managers in the game. They're both in their 40s. Bright, young, very appealing, popular with the media. So this is a very high-profile ordeal.

BERMAN: And what does it tell you that Manfred, Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, came down with this penalty, which was a year-long suspension for both the general manager and the manager and then some, you know, really stiff draft pick penalties as well. The strength of the penalty, why?

COSTAS: Punishment for what was done, but also a clear message as a deterrent. You want to try this? You think the reward is worth the risk? This is what can happen.

And something else to watch, no players were penalized, even though we know that Carlos Beltran, who is now the manager of the Mets, or about to be, was in his final year as a player in 2017 and prized for his ability, his great baseball IQ. So he was part of this.


COSTAS: Manfred said we can't begin penalizing players because almost everybody in the clubhouse knew. It's hard to sort it all out. But you have an upcoming negotiation between the Players Association and the owners and management and they might be able to make the argument -- I'll try to be as concise as I can here -- that just as in the steroid era, the Players Association lost sight of the fact that many players who didn't use steroids were victims of those who did.


COSTAS: Or they were forced to use against their better judgment just to keep up. So if you've got somebody stealing signs and gaming an unfair competitive advantage, that's hurting some of the Players Association's membership. So you could sit down at the bargaining table and say, you know what, this is an area of mutual interest. We've got to codify penalties for players if they're convincingly involved, as well as coaches, managers, front office people.

BERMAN: It's one of the curious thing about these penalties. And Rob Manfred did act swiftly. But his investigation found it was the players who were behind this predominantly.


BERMAN: Not the manager, who, by the way, tried to smash the monitors that were being used.

COSTAS: Yes, A.J. Hinch knew about it, didn't approve of it, but did not stop it.

BERMAN: But it was the players who were behind it and not a single player was penalized. That's odd.

COSTAS: The rationale is that the adults in the room, so to speak, are the manager, the general manager, the front office people, they are ultimately responsible for the culture of what goes on within their team.


But I think if they can figure out a way that wouldn't have them in litigation or arbitration constantly because the Players Association has historically been a formidable adversary. If they could figure out a way to codify this and put penalties in place that would also be a deterrent to the players, they would do it.

BERMAN: All right, I'm going to throw a couple straw men at you and I want you to explain or knock them down.


BERMAN: Number one, why is it the Astros get to keep their World Series here? They won with cheating over the year. On top of that, there are pitchers who lost strikeouts. There are stats that were all blown up.


BERMAN: How is it that the Astros themselves don't lose anything?

COSTAS: I think the rationale and the history is, look, we know that the 1919 Chicago White Sox, known as the Black Sox, think of eight men out, that they threw the World Series. At least some of them conspired to throw the World Series. But the record book still says that the Cincinnati Reds are the 1919 World Champions. And the record book, look at it any way you want, says that Barry Bonds has more home runs than Hank Aaron and that Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds all hit more home runs in a season than Babe Ruth or Roger Maris.

But the fans and baseball historians make of that what they will, even though it's there in stark black and white in the record books. And I think their notion is, look, if we start parsing all this, when does it end? If we pull on this thread, does the whole garment unravel? With steroids, who was using? Who wasn't? Who gained an advantage? Who didn't gain an advantage? Did one team have more guys using steroids than another? Almost impossible to determine. And kind of lost in the shuffle in this thing about the Astros and then maybe about the Red Sox is that the commissioner's investigation showed that at least eight other teams, not as prominent and not as successful, at least eight other teams had sign-stealing schemes of their own. So I think that Manfred is content with -- or at least to this point he'll go only this far.

We issued these penalties, not just the suspensions, but a $5 million fine for the Astros, and they lost both their first and second round draft choices this year and next. That's significant. We'll go that far and we'll hope that this serves as a deterrent going forward.

BERMAN: All right, the other straw man is the exact opposite of the argument I was just making. One of my favorite sayings in Nascar is, you know, if you ain't rubbing, you ain't racing. If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying.

COSTAS: Right.

BERMAN: Everyone does this the argument goes. How would you respond to that?

COSTAS: Well, supposedly that was some of the justification during the so-called steroid era. Everybody was doing it. It was the wild west. Well, that might have some effect on how you judge those who use steroids individually. It might have some effect to say, not the worst person who ever lived. He's a nice guy. He got caught up in it. But if it was OK, then everybody would openly admit it.

BERMAN: Right.

COSTAS: Why would it be clandestine if it was OK? Why didn't people say in 1996, sure, I'm using PEDs, everybody does. Sure, I wanted to hit 45 home runs instead of 22. Sure. What's the problem? Nobody said it because they all knew that it was cheating. They all knew at some level it was wrong.

Why until Mike Fiers, who was with the Astros, and since has been with two other clubs, until he spoke with the athletic, why did no player, and almost every player in the clubhouse, whether they individually benefited or not, they all knew it was happening, why didn't anybody say something? Because either if they were involved in doing it, they knew they were cheating, or the code of Omerta (ph), that generally applies within clubhouses, which is, no matter what happens here, we're not going to rat out any of our teammates, we're part of a brotherhood. So they know. The answer to your question is, they know it's wrong.

BERMAN: And my wife brought up this point last night. You know, we talk about sports. Why do you have your kids play sports? You know, you have your play -- kids play sports, they get a workout, to have community, because it's fair in competition. Cheating stinks.


BERMAN: And we now see it at the highest levels of athletic competition in a lot of different places.

COSTAS: You know, no matter how much sports may change, no matter how many things we may find objectionable within sports, at the core of it, if the competition is not credible, if you don't believe in the integrity of the competition, you might as well just go watch the WWE if that's all it is to you.

So, on the one hand, we're going to look at six different angles to parse a call in the second quarter of a game in October, right, but we're not going to care about PEDs? We're not going to care about stealing signs? You can't have it both ways.

This is a question of competitive integrity. And no one should be so naive as to believe that everything in modern sports is the absolute epitome of every all-American ideal and guys on a Wheaties box. We know that's not true. But if you can't believe in the basic honesty and integrity of the competition itself, stop watching.


BERMAN: Bob Costas, thank you so much for being with us.

COSTAS: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: An education I think we all got today on all of this.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I certainly did. Thank you both.

So after the terror attack at a Florida naval air base, now there's a battle between privacy and national security. We'll explain.


CAMEROTA: The Justice Department is pressuring tech giant Apple to unlock the phones of a terrorist who killed three people at a Florida naval air base last month. Apple is refusing to do so.

CNN's Evan Perez is live in Washington with more.

We've seen these cases, Evan. Why won't Apple help the Justice Department when it comes to cases like this?


It turns out Apple says that it cannot do that. It says there's only -- there's only so much they can do to sort of defeat the encryption technology that they have on every single iPhone.

So let me step back a little bit and talk a little bit about what happened yesterday.

The attorney general announced that what happened in Pensacola, the case of a Saudi cadet student training there with the naval air station, that that was a terrorist attack.


And we have 21 Saudis now being kicked out of the United States as a result of this investigation. But as a result of this, the FBI has been struggling to get into two iPhones that were found on the body of the shooter. And so they've asked Apple to help them unlock it. The attorney general says that Apple has not provided substantive assistance to the FBI in this investigation.

Apple responded last night by saying that they reject that characterization. They say that they've turned over gigabytes of information to the FBI and that the FBI only recently told them that there was a second iPhone that they were trying to unlock. So we'll see where this goes.

But, you know, one of the things that we need to step back here, yesterday we learned essentially that there are two terrorist attacks that occurred in the last month. One was, obviously, at Pensacola Naval Air Station and another one in Jersey City, where we learned yesterday that the shooters who attacked a kosher market essentially had enough explosives to damage -- to essentially damage things as many as five football fields away. So it really shows you that even though we don't talk about it much, given the fact that there's so much -- so many other things going on, clearly there's still these terrorist attacks in the United States. And there's not much discussion about what's happening here.

CAMEROTA: Evan, thank you for that reporting. I mean technology needs to be able to keep up with terrorists' tricks at this point.

PEREZ: Absolutely. Sure.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for all that reporting.


BERMAN: All right, time now for "The Good Stuff."

A young boy is making clay koalas for a great cause. Six-year-old Owen Cawley (ph), whose father is Australian, was upset by the catastrophic brush fires and the huge loss of wildlife there. So he started making and selling these little clay koalas.

CAMEROTA: OK, those are adorable. BERMAN: They really are. And the project has taken off.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My whole class wants to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I'm so proud of him. So proud of him. He's doing a great job.


BERMAN: He's as cute as the koalas.

Through his a GoFundMe page, Owen raised more than $8,000 for an Australian wildlife rescue group.

CAMEROTA: Terrific.

BERMAN: So just hours to go until the final debate before the first votes are cast in the Democratic primaries. What to watch for tonight? How the candidates should be preparing. We're going to speak to one of the world's great political strategists when we get "The Bottom Line," next.



CAMEROTA: All right, tonight is the final Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses.

Let's get "The Bottom Line" on what to watch for. Joining us now is CNN's senior political commentator and host of "The Axe Files," David Axelrod.

So, David, wow, that was very flashy.

Let's talk about that stage behind you. There will be six candidates.


CAMEROTA: Three weeks until Iowa. So if you were advising any of them, what would you tell them they need to do on that stage tonight?

AXELROD: Well, look, this is as big as can be. And I would say that even if it weren't on CNN tonight because we have four candidates bunched at the top. Any one of them plausibly could win the Iowa caucuses. And the Iowa caucuses will set the table for the rest of the race. And within that group of four, you have two distinct lanes.

You have Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the left. You have Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg in the sort of center lane. And each needs to pass the other to have a successful caucus. It doesn't mean necessarily that they're -- that Buttigieg will go after Biden or Biden on Buttigieg or we've seen some skirmishing with Warren and Sanders. But that is the dynamic here. And then you have Senator Amy Klobuchar, for whom this is a do or die situation. She's looking in, in that Buttigieg and Biden lane. So you can see her, I think, being a very aggressive debater tonight.

But my advice to them would be to keep an eye on the people in your lane, first of all, and, secondly, be very distinct about your message because this in certain ways is final arguments to the most important voters on the planet right now who -- which are Iowa caucus goers.

BERMAN: Such a great point.

If you're Joe Biden, how do you navigate some opportunities and some challenges, right? The opportunity might be that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren now have some tension between them. I imagine you want to remove yourself from that. The challenge is, what if Sanders and Warren, to get away from that tension, come after you?

AXELROD: And I think they will. I think one of the ways that Bernie Sanders looks to certify himself to his base is to go after Biden as a kind of avatar of the status quo of the establishment, in much the way he did with Hillary Clinton. I think you'll see that again tonight.

But, you know, Biden may feel like there's some advantage in engaging with Bernie tonight because he wants to -- to the -- part of the Democratic Party that is fearful of Bernie Sanders as the nominee, Biden wants to send the message, look, it's me or him. And, you know, you better get on board here.

So I expect there will be some sparks between at least Sanders and Biden tonight maybe over Iraq, maybe over trade, but there will be some sparks.

CAMEROTA: What about the sparks between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren? Do you think that this dust up between them where there was this conversation, a private conversation they had had in 2018, that has now gone public courtesy really of Elizabeth Warren confirming it where she claims that Bernie Sanders told her back then he didn't think that a woman could win the presidency.


AXELROD: Listen, Elizabeth Warren's hope is to -- was to consolidate the progressive bloc and she was going to do it here in Iowa. Now we see polling that shows Sanders in a decent position to win the Iowa caucuses. That would be very, very tough for Elizabeth Warren. So, clearly, she's ratcheted up her -- for a year they were -- they were peace and love because, you know, there was a concern that each held voters the other needed. Now I think Warren has made the judgment that if she doesn't do something to slow Bernie Sanders down here, she could get written out of the script and he could consolidate that left.

So, yes, I thought it was unusual to surface a conversation that happened 13 months ago, a private conversation. But it just reflects how much the stakes have gone up given the shortness of time and the nature of the polling here.

BERMAN: David Axelrod, we know you will be watching tonight's big debate on CNN, 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.


BERMAN: That's a huge story today.

Also huge, we're minutes away, maybe, from learning who House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will tap to be the House impeachment managers in the Senate trial. CNN's all over it, next.