Full disclosure, I love baseball and pretty much everything about it. The sights, sounds, smells. All of it. I’d love to teach the next generations how to play America’s past time and I’m becoming more intrigued about that possibility with each passing day.
There’s been a saying that gets uttered every once in a while when there is some kind of cheating scandal in a sport; “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”
The biggest flaw in that statement is the fact that you’re always trying. You end up cheating when you either give up or figure out that you can be even better by cheating. When you don’t need to go about cheating to begin with.
That’s what makes this sign stealing scandal so dumb and sad at the same time. The Houston Astros are comprised of a great group of players who didn’t need to resort to this to be a great team. I’ve read the full nine page report by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and can’t believe that at any point during the 2017 or 2018 season that Astros GM Jeff Lunhow and manager A.J. Hinch didn’t have an ounce of character to stop this madness.
Houston has since turned the page on this chapter with their owner Jim Crane firing both Lunhow and Hinch when the report was released. The Astros will lose a first and second round pick in 2020 and 2021, be fined $5 million dollars and Lunhow and Hinch will be suspended for the entire 2020 season.
The question being asked since the results of the investigation was announced has been is this enough punishment for a team that you could argue cheated to eventually win a World Series in 2017? Well, the ones crying about fairness want the Astros stripped of their title and have it given to the Los Angeles Dodgers. But as commissioner Manfred stated in the report; “Some Astros players told my investigators that they did not believe the sign-stealing scheme was effective, and it was more distracting than useful to hitters. I am neither in a position to evaluate whether the scheme helped Astros hitters (who were unquestionably a very talented group), nor whether it helped the Astros win any games. There are so many factors that impact the outcome of games that addressing that issue would require rank speculation. But for purposes of my decision, regardless of whether the scheme was effective or not, it violated the rules and, at a minimum, created the appearance of unfairness, and for that, it necessitates severe discipline.”
Did we forget how bad the Astros pitchers were at times in that series? Game 7 was played in Dodger Stadium. I don’t believe the Astros could have put a camera in center field of an opponents ballpark without getting caught.
Former MLB pitcher and future Hall of Famer Curt Schilling mentioned in an interview during the week of the fallout that if you really want to deter teams in the future from doing this again, ban them from playing in the Postseason. Could you imagine if the Astros won another 100+ games in 2020, but were barred from playing in October? That is a better deterrent for doing what they did.
As for the Boston Red Sox who won the World Series in 2018, they were caught during the 2017 season relaying information via an Apple Watch in the dugout. That resulted in the commissioner announcing new rules against the use of technology for stealing opponents signs during a game. It should be noted that MLB is currently investigating the Boston Red Sox for possible violations during the 2018 season in which they won the World Series. Yet, with Alex Cora’s history as the bench coach for the Houston Astros in 2017 and an enabler of sign stealing there, he was let go as manager of the Boston Red Sox after the investigation of the Astros. He was hired as the manager for the Red Sox prior to the 2018 season.
The New York Mets just hired Carlos Beltran to be their manager for the 2020 season. His name was mentioned in the report as being an enabler for stealing opponents signs in 2017. That was his last season as a player for the Houston Astros. This was his first job as a manager at any level. Both he and the Mets decided it was best to part ways before he even managed a single game.
I don’t like cheaters. The steroid era is a black mark on the game. Gambling is still a big no-no in the sport. Using technology to this extent to get an advantage on your opponent is about as low as it gets. There isn’t a single rule for stealing signs the old fashioned way, which is usually with a runner on second. You see it during every broadcast and if a team doesn’t know how to change their signs properly, well you know what to expect.
Are the players just as culpable? Of course. The 2020 season just got a bit more interesting with this investigation being made public. Can you say brushback? While I wouldn’t mind seeing a team banned from Postseason play for doing something like this, the punishment was just for what commissioner Manfred laid out in his report. He was going to punish the team, its GM and manager if they were caught breaking these rules.
I asked that this investigation be as transparent as possible and judging by the fallout from it, that’s about as transparent as you can get.