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Carlos Beltrán, the only player named in MLB's investigation of the Astros' sign-stealing scandal, is out as Mets manager, departing less than three months into his tenure and becoming the third manager in four days to lose his job.

Why it matters: Pitchers and catchers begin reporting to spring training in 27 days, and the Astros, Red Sox and Mets don't have managers. What we've witnessed this week is unprecedented — and the fallout has only just begun.Houston Astros fire manager, GM after suspension for sign-stealing

Meanwhile, on Twitter: Speculation surfaced that Astros players José Altuve and Alex Bregman wore devices under their jerseys that buzzed to tell them what pitch was coming, turning an already wild controversy into a full-blown conspiracy theory.

  • Twitter then did what Twitter does best, finding photo and video evidence that could suggest the presence of those buzzers, generating enough noise that MLB felt compelled to respond, saying it "found no evidence" of wearable devices during its investigation.

Between the lines: The buzzer rumors aren't supported by actual evidence, so I don't want to mislead you into thinking they're anything more than internet rumblings.

  • But I do believe it's important to share just how absurd things got online yesterday, because it paints a picture of where baseball currently finds itself.
  • First, it was the balls mysteriously flying farther. Then it was teams using cameras to cheat. Then it was Beltrán — arguably the most revered player of the last decade — being involved in that cheating. And now we're analyzing buzzer technology and Altuve's wardrobe.

Simply put, nobody trusts anything anymore. Fans feel betrayed and players feel cheated. Once spring training begins, the show will go on as it always does, but the stench of this scandal will linger.

  • There will be constant rumors, questions, jokes and internet memes, and fans might boo every single time an Astros player gets a hit on the road.

The big picture: Modern baseball often feels like a "business" where teams are competing to find an edge, rather than a "sport." And when you add this scandal to the mix, it makes you realize how far removed baseball is from its original descriptor: "pastime."

  • "Baseball earned a place in so many hearts on its romance. But it has begun to sound like the insurance and banking industries," writes SI's Tom Verducci.
  • "[P]layers become 'assets' or 'a two-win player.' Relief pitchers are 'fungible.' ... The chance to score a run, win a game or secure a postseason berth are defined as a finite percentage."
  • "We don't want championships that make us do mental gymnastics to decide whether they are inauthentic. We don't want player analysis to be derivative valuation. ... We want a clean game decided by fair competition. Clean it up."

P.S. ... The sign-stealing scandal is serious stuff, but it's important to remember that it's also hilarious. I just feel like that had to be said, as this is ultimately a story about grown men banging on trash cans.

P.P.S. ... In much more positive news, Alyssa Nakken became the first female coach in MLB history yesterday when she was named an assistant under Giants manager Gabe Kapler.

Go deeper: Houston Astros fire manager, GM after suspension for sign-stealing

Go deeper

Bipartisan group of senators seeks coronavirus stimulus deal

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

At least eight Republican and Democratic senators have formed an informal working group aimed at securing new coronavirus spending during the lame-duck session, a move favored by President-elect Biden, two sources familiar with the group tell Axios.

Why it matters: It may be the most significant bipartisan step toward COVID relief in months.

FCC chairman to depart in January

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Ajit Pai will leave his post as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Jan. 20, the agency said today.

Why it matters: Pai's Inauguration Day departure is in keeping with agency tradition, and could set up the Biden administration with a 2-1 Democratic majority at the FCC if the Senate fails to confirm another Trump nominee during the lame-duck period.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

GM's shrinking deal with Nikola

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

General Motors will no longer take an equity stake in Nikola Corp. or build its pickup truck, under a revised deal that still envisions GM as a key tech supplier for Nikola's planned line of electric and fuel cell heavy trucks.

Driving the news: The revised agreement Monday is smaller in scope than a draft partnership rolled out in September that had included a $2 billion stake in the startup and an agreement to build its Badger pickup.