• Brian L. Barefield

INTEGRITY CHECK Astros SS Carlos Correa takes the lead on the 2017 cheating scandal.

One thing I learned very early in my military career was the Army’s Core Values system. The acronym LDRSHIP stands for: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage. The core value that sticks out the most in any unit is integrity.

Especially when an NCO (non-commissioned officer) or Officer is talking to a soldier who has broken an Army regulation and is standing in front of them to explain what happened.

Being an NCO myself, there was a standard phrase I would use before any explanations or investigation would begin. I learned it from my very first NCO (SFC Larry Farmer Ret.) who was my mentor at my first duty station. My soldiers knew what was coming and could repeat it verbatim.

“Integrity check,” is what I would say to the soldiers to let them have an opportunity to think about the next thing that was going to come out of their mouth. Was it always successful? No. But it worked to an extent and I even had soldiers come back to me to tell me the truth because their conscious was eating them up and bothering their integrity.

With the recent report of the 2017 Houston Astros using technology and objects to steal signs from opposing pitchers being released by Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, it took me back to my days as an NCO as everything started to unfold. Of course, the team denied that anything went on when there was just speculation and accusations. Many had gone on record stating that they had no clue on why the team was being accused of cheating.

It wasn’t until current Oakland A’s pitcher Mike Fiers went on record by giving accurate and detailed information on how the Astros used cameras, trash cans, and monitors to gain an advantage on other teams on their way to a World Series title. That has set the sports world on fire ever since that interview was published and the Astros has been labeled as “The Worst Team Ever!”

In the aftermath of the commissioner’s report, A.J. Hinch (former manager of the Astros) and Jeff Lunhow (former general manager) have been terminated by owner Jim Crane and Dusty Baker has taken over as manager. Both Crane and Baker sat in front of the media as Spring Training 2020 began and took questions stemming from the commissioner’s report. Third baseman Alex Bregman and Second baseman Jose Altuve read prepared written statements but took no questions from the media.

The aftermath from that press conference was worse than the initial report of the Astros “Breaking the rules,” as Crane put it. Social media went crazy and every sports outlet was criticizing the lack of remorse shown by the individuals that spoke to the media before the clubhouse opened and the players were made available.

As all the major media outlets rushed into the clubhouse to grill the players about the report and the press conference, one player stood out and had an integrity check moment. Shortstop Carlos Correa stood in front of the camera’s and didn’t shy away from any question and answered them truthfully.

He didn’t deny that the Astros had used technology or objects to gain an advantage and that he had also benefitted as well. When asked did former player Carlos Beltran force the players to take part in the sign stealing scheme he defended Beltran.

“We didn’t feel scared. We didn’t feel intimidated. He was the nicest guy that we could ever have. He was the best teammate we could ever have,” Correa said. “Beltran was the leader of the clubhouse, but we all had a say in everything that we were doing. Whatever he said, and whatever we were doing, we had the chance to stop it as a team. Everybody had a chance to say something, and we didn’t.”

I imagine that Correa could not think straight or sleep at night leading up to Spring Training because he knew that he had to do what was right and have an integrity check moment. He knew that the only way to clear and clean his conscious was to come clean about everything that was going on. Although he had a grave lapse in judgement by using the sign stealing scheme in the beginning, he was coming clean now.

Some will say that it’s a little too late for Correa to be speaking on the scandal now when he had ample opportunities to speak before. That’s a fair statement to make. My retort to that would be, “Does the truth have a time limit?” Is there a statute of limitations timeframe on when the truth can be told?

I once had a soldier who had liquor in his barracks room which is a clear violation of base housing rules and regulations. It clearly states that no contraband shall be in your possession while being housed in the barracks in the handbook you must read and sign as acknowledgement of knowing the rules.

All NCO’s were advised to conduct a room inspection in the near future, so I went to my soldiers and Navy personnel that lived in the barracks and asked if anyone had any contraband in their rooms. I used my signature opening statement of, “Integrity Check” and of course I got the typical, “No Sarge” answer to my question. I clearly knew that one soldier in particular was lying because his roommate had already told the other NCO that they had contraband in their rooms.

Two days prior to the room inspection one soldier asks if he could talk to me. We left the work area and went and got breakfast and during that time he admitted that the day I asked about the contraband he had lied to me. He showed remorse during our conversation and said that the reason he was coming clean was he took the Army core values serious and my integrity check statement had been bothering him for weeks.

The soldier said he ran back to his barracks room that day and threw away the liquor and since then had not brought anything remotely close to breaking the rules to his room.

That’s what I imagine that clubhouse leader Carlos Correa was dealing with right before it was time to report to Florida. His integrity was screaming to the rooftop that he needed to tell the whole truth to the world. He didn’t need to hide behind any prepared statements anymore.

So that’s exactly what he did on that day. He told the truth. He followed that up later with a great interview with the MLB Network where he admitted to cheating during the 2017 season. Correa also defended the teammates that didn’t cheat and wanted it on record that no devices were used against the LA Dodgers in the World Series that year.

Whether you tend to believe him or not is left up to you. I am not here to lead you one way or another in your views on the Houston Astros. My sole purpose is to highlight an individual in Carlos Correa who has taken the lead on this situation and become the spokesman for the players.

An integrity check moment cannot be defined by others. It is only defined by the individual who is battling their own integrity on a consistent basis. Most would like for that person to have an integrity check moment on the spot, but it’s not up to us to set a timetable on when it should happen.

I will leave you with this one question to ponder over. “Have you had an integrity check moment lately?” If not. Maybe it’s time to stop judging the Astros and get your own affairs in order.

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