He added: “When you’re playing regularly and you do start playing well, scoring goals, whatever position you’re in, it’s enjoyable to keep playing and it helps. “You have to have an eye on the squad – it is a long season – so I’m not expecting, or asking, to play every single game. “(But) it seems to me recently I’ve been able to play every three or four days, I’ve enjoyed it.” Blues interim boss Rafael Benitez has options returning to his squad following injuries and suspensions, plus the African Nations Cup which Chelsea duo Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel won with Nigeria, but Lampard will surely continue to be a key player. Chelsea are entering a busy period, with the Europa League last-32 matches against Sparta Prague either side of a FA Cup fourth-round replay with Brentford and before a Barclays Premier League clash with Manchester City. Lampard said: “We’re fit enough (to play twice a week). We manage ourselves in training. “We need to enjoy it. At the minute the season hasn’t been successful. We should be challenging for titles rather than third or fourth, but we’re not. And we’ve not won some cups, we’ve been knocked out. We have to grab the fact that there’s a lot of games to play and we have to try to win something.” Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard has attributed his rich vein of form to playing twice a week amid ongoing uncertainty over his future at Stamford Bridge. While speculation over a possible new contract rumbles on, the 34-year-old has enjoyed an impressive run in front of goal, including netting in each of his last four games. He struck his 27th goal in 94 England appearances last week with the winner against Brazil and also scored against Wigan on Saturday. “It’s not rocket science: the more you play you get sharper and you get match fit,” Lampard told Chelsea TV. “Since I’ve been able to play regularly I feel like I’ve got sharpness and the confidence. I’m 34, you still need confidence of playing regular games. It certainly helps me, to get flow in your game; you ask any player that, I’m not on my own there.” Press Association
“I used to really respect those guys and respect their games,” Merrifield said. “I have no respect for those guys anymore.”Merrifield also called it “blatant cheating” and voiced his concern for everyone affected by the scandal.”The ripple effect of what they were doing is tremendous. It cost people jobs. It cost people opportunities in this game. It cost people millions of dollars, and it cost people a chance at experiencing world championships. It’s disgusting what they did. It discredits everything that those players have ever done.” Few players have opened up about their feelings on the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal before the start of spring training, but as players start trickling into camp, a lot more have given their opinions about baseball’s biggest controversy since steroids. Here’s what they have to say:Cody Bellinger: ‘Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.’One of the latest players to add fuel to the fire, the Los Angeles’ Dodgers’ MVP outfielder had some choice words for MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Friday.”I thought Manfred’s punishment was weak, giving them immunity,” Bellinger said. “I mean, these guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don’t realize is (Jose) Altuve stole an MVP from (Aaron) Judge in ’17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.”Bellinger also sparked further discussion about whether the Astros wore buzzers under their jerseys to tell them what pitch was coming in 2019.”I don’t know what human hits a walk-off home run against Aroldis Chapman to send your team to the World Series (Altuve) and, one, has the thought to say, ‘Don’t rip my jersey off,'” Bellinger said. “But to go in the tunnel, change your shirt, and then come out and do your interview — that makes no sense to me. Makes zero sense to me. Because I know me. Gary Sanchez said it (Thursday). You can rip my shirt off, my pants off, I sent my team to the World Series off Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning, at home, I’m going crazy.”Mike Trout: ‘I lost respect for some of those guys.’Angels’ center fielder Mike Trout, who usually prefers to stay out of controversy, made it clear that he was upset not only with the Astros, but with the lack of punishment.”It’s sad for baseball, Trout said. “They cheated. I don’t agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing.”Trout also echoed Bellinger’s views about Altuve’s jersey.”You can take my shirt off,” Trout said. “If you hit a homer to send your team to the World Series at home, you can do whatever you want to me.”Trout then acknowledged the advantage given to the Astros with their specific brand of sign-stealing.“Going up to the plate knowing what’s coming…that would be a lot of fun,” Trout joked.Nick Markakis: ‘I feel like every single guy over there needs a beating.’Braves right fielder Nick Markakis, who is usually a pretty stoic guy, had harsh words for both the Astros and Manfred.”It angers you, especially from a guy who has played the game the right way his whole career. No shortcuts. I know how hard this game is, I know how hard preparing for this game is. To see something like that is damaging to baseball.”Markakis also thought the Astros players got off too lightly, and had a punishment suggestion of his own.I feel like every single guy over there needs a beating…you got players who did it are scot-free. I know there is a lot of political stuff behind it, but it’s wrong. We don’t want to see that.”Markakis ended his comments by berating the Astros entire organization. “What they did was bulls—. They took a lot of opportunities away from people and possibly ruined people’s careers. Like I said, we’re all competitive. We want to compete and win. But when you take it to that level there is no excuse. Like I said, bulls—. They should have some ramifications for what they did.”FAGAN: MLB players must speak loudly and publicly to stop cheating in real timeAndrew Heaney: ‘I hope they feel like s—.’The Angels left-hander was one of the first players to come out cursing the Astros, and on Wednesday he did not hold back in his rant.”I’m not going to make excuses for those guys. I know how it is. You get caught up in something. I’m sure they look back now and say, ‘Oh, f—, we really took that overboard.’ But I think somebody in that locker room had to have enough insight to say this is not OK. … For nobody to stand up and nobody to say, ‘We’re cheating other players,’ that sucks. That’s a s—ty feeling for everybody. I hope they feel like s—.”Justin Turner: ‘They shouldn’t have rings.’Dodgers’ third baseman Justin Turner ripped Manfred for his recent comments about the Astros’ investigation, including calling the Commissioner’s Trophy a “piece of metal.””For him to devalue it the way he did yesterday just tells me how out of touch he is with the players in this game. At this point the only thing devaluing that trophy is that it says ‘commissioner’ on it.”Turner also stated plainly what he thought of the Astros championship title.”They shouldn’t have rings. Sorry. A World Series championship is earned.”Mike Bolsinger: ‘The Astros had robbed me.’Former Blue Jays pitcher Mike Bolsinger, who is suing the Astros for essentially ending his career with their sign-stealing, wrote an op-ed piece for The Washington Post explaining his decision. In it, Bolsinger writes about his decision, and how the sign-stealing affected not only his career, but the well-being of his family.”The Astros had robbed me of the opportunity to determine my own future on the mound. If I failed at my craft because I wasn’t good enough, that would be on me. I could live with that. But thinking about the cheating and the toll it ultimately took on my family — that was something I couldn’t tolerate.”Bolsinger was designated for assignment after a disastrous Aug. 4 outing against the Astros in which he gave up four home runs in one-third of an inning. He ended up pitching in Japan to provide for his wife and unborn son. When he found out what the Astros had done, he was “shocked and angry.””The team hasn’t adequately dealt with its cheating during the 2017 season, when Houston won the World Series, and just announcing that you’re moving forward doesn’t mean you can leave behind the damage you’ve done,” Bolsinger said. He is demanding that the Astros donate their $31 million in 2017 postseason bonuses to charity, in addition to seeking personal damages.MORE: Astros owner Jim Crane bungles sign-stealing apologyAroldis Chapman: ‘They look very suspicious.’The Yankees closer was more gracious with his answer, but he still thought that what the Astros were doing made them more competitive.”Is that the sole reason they won the World Series? I don’t know,” Chapman said. “But what I can say (is) that when you have an advantage like that, it’s definitely going to make you a stronger team.”Chapman gave up the series-clinching home run to Jose Altuve in Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS, a video that was widely circulated by proponents of the theory that Astros hitters were wearing buzzers.”Yeah, I’ve seen that video,” Chapman said. “I think a lot of people have seen that video. It’s a popular video right now. And, yeah, if you look at his actions, they look a little suspicious. But at the end of the day, I just don’t know.”Kurt Suzuki: ‘It’s so stupid and so wrong.’As a catcher on the Nationals’ World Series championship team, Suzuki had no doubt in his mind that the Astros were still cheating in 2019 despite MLB saying it found no evidence of cheating past 2017.”Oh, yeah, no question,” Suzuki said. “We could hear it from their dugout. We heard their whistling. What are you going to do?”Suzuki also talked about the intense precautions the Nationals adopted to prevent the Astros from stealing their signs.”The whole thing was crazy. I got messed up on signs a couple of times, had to call time and take us out of rhythm. I kept thinking, ‘We have to go to the field and work early on our signs in the World Series just to stop their cheating.’ It’s so stupid and so wrong.”MORE: Carlos Correa denies Astros were intimidated by Carlos BeltranSean Manaea: ‘They skated by everything, they swept everything under the rug.’The Athletics left-hander just wants the Astros to admit they were wrong.”I saw a couple of interviews and they all said pretty much the same thing — they skated by everything, they swept everything under the rug,” Manaea said. “They didn’t own up to anything and they’re trying to move on, which is like — what are you guys trying to move on from? You haven’t even said what it is you did.”They just now said they’re sorry, but what about this entire offseason? It was, like, deny, deny, deny. When the time comes, you have to say what you’re trying to move on from. It’s crazy.”Manaea also disagreed with Astros owner Jim Crane’s comments about the lack of an advantage.”It’s a very, very unfair advantage,” Manaea said. “It’s like giving your brother the junk controller with the button that doesn’t work and then just whooping his butt all the time.”Trevor Bauer: ‘They are hypocrites, they are cheaters.’Bauer, never one to back down from a controversy, offered similar sentiments to Bellinger and Heaney.”They’ve stolen from a lot of other people and the game itself was completely unfair,” the Reds right-hander said.Bauer then called out the Astros directly, saying: “You guys think you are better than everyone and you don’t have to abide by the rules? F— you. You know? That’s how I feel about their whole operation.”Kris Bryant: ‘What a disgrace.’Cubs’ third baseman Kris Bryant attacked the Astros for their apology, or lack thereof.”What a disgrace that was,” Bryant said. “Just watching their apology yesterday, too, there’s just no sincerity, there’s no genuineness when it comes to it.”Bryant also believed the Astros continued to cheat, even though the Commissioner’s report said otherwise.”I’m pretty sure it was going on in 2018, 2019 too. And that’s just so sad, because I mean, if they didn’t get caught, they’d still be doing it. They’re only doing this apology because they got caught.”Bryant also said he “personally think[s] it’s worse than steroids,” echoing the sentiments of players like Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen.Whit Merrifield: ‘It discredits everything that those players have ever done.’Royals’ outfielder Whit Merrifield did not hold back in his criticism of the Astros. Baseball players are mad.No, some of them are more than mad. Some of them are downright furious.