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Astros' scandal is the main talking point of Blue Jays' winter festival

TORONTO -- It was baseball talk with a snowstorm raging outside  and the Toronto Blue Jays certainly covered all the topics you'd expect Saturday at their annual Winter Fest in Rogers Centre.

The free-agent acquisition of former Dodgers standing Hyun-jin Ryu is a major addition. Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio will be starting a season in the major leagues for the first time after graduating from Buffalo. There's hope of pushing toward the postseason again for the first time since 2016.

But all the chatter was dwarfed, of course, by the sign-stealing scandal that has erupted in baseball and cast huge question marks over the World Series championships won by the Houston Astros in 2017 and the Boston Red Sox in 2018.

Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk, a suburban Houston native, offered some of the strongest comments yet from any big leaguer when he said Major League Baseball should reconsider its previously announced punishments and strip the Astros of their 2017 title.

"I would like to see that. Obviously, I bet the Dodgers would like to see that," said Grichuk, referring to the team the Astros and Red Sox beat in the Fall Classic. "I've got a few friends on the Dodgers that are very disappointed that possibly two years in a row they lost due to a team going against the rules. So I think the bigger (the punishment) the better, just due to the fact that more teams will say 'we're not even going to take the risk.'"

Blue Jays reliever Ken Giles had 34 saves for the '17 Astros before struggling in the postseason that fall. He was tight-lipped when pressed about that team, saying he was unaware of what MLB found in its investigation. The Astros were using video technology in an elaborate ruse to steal signs, ultimately banging on a garbage can near the dugout to signal pitches to their batters.

"I honestly don't know anything about it. It is what it is," Giles said. "The Blue Jays are my No. 1 priority. ... You have to move on from it and I'm focused on what's going on here in Toronto."

Asked if he was offended by the damage that batters on his former team were doing to the reputation of the game, Giles didn't go much further.

"It's not fun," he said. "But at the end of the day, pitchers have to be creative as well. You can't just go thorugh the motions. You have to evolve every year, learn from your mistakes. There are changes in the game, you've got to change with it."

Grichuk, meanwhile, wasn't holding back.

"We thought they were so good, kind of head and shoulders above," Grichuk said. "It was, 'Maybe their talent is better, maybe they have an analytics department that's just better, they've beat the curve.' To find out this is definitely sad.

"I think what a lot of people don't realize is how much it actually affects the game, not just wins and losses," Grichuk added. "It affects the guys in Triple-A trying to get back to the majors. Guys who were compared to them in arbitration, how much they made. So now they're going to make less. It's just bad for baseball. ... It's bad for fans to say we're going to a game to see my favorite player and now to realize he might be cheating."

Infielder Cavan Biggio, son of Hall of Famer and Astros legend Craig Biggio, also stayed close to the vest with his comments.

"We'll respect the league's decision on the punishments and hopefully just move on from here," he said. "The game of baseball can get better from it, put it behind us and move forward. ... The biggest thing we can do is respect the integrity of the game ourselves and go out there and play."

Biggio's father, Craig, has spoken to Astros owner Jim Crane and offered any assistance he can bring to the club in its time of crisis. Cavan Biggio said he's been honored to see many fans getting behind the thought of Craig Biggio getting a chance to manage the club, although he's not yet one of the rumored candidates.

"I think he would do well there just because he's been there forever, 35 years or whatever it is," Cavan Biggio said. "He's seen the highs and lows and they'll get through this. Whatever they decide to do there, you just have to put it in the past as quickly as possible."

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The highlight of the event was the unveiling of the Jays' new powder blue alternate uniforms, which can be worn both at home and on the road. Both the shirts and pants are in powder blue, as is the brim of the new alternate cap.

On the event's main stage, Guerrero Jr. drew big cheers from several thousand fans because he responded in clear English as to why he liked the new uniforms.

"Because I like the way my teammates look," he said.

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