Houston Astros Cheating - MLB - Sign Stealing - World Series
The punishment handed down to the Houston Astros for their cheating scheme during the 2017-19 World Series (and I’m sure before) is an absolute joke and an affront to the entire sport.
The “punishment,” consisting of a 1-year suspicion for the GM and Manager, a $5 million dollar fine, and the loss of their 1st and 2nd round draft picks for two seasons, is not a punishment at all.
It’s a luxury tax. It’s a slap on the wrist. It’s nothing. And don’t let anyone tell you different.
Talking heads on TV insist it’s one of the biggest punishments every dished out by the league, expect Astros' fans across the nation are jumping in joy for how easy they got off.
Let’s not forget that Pete Rose was banned FOR LIFE and had his entire legacy destroyed, not because of cheating, but because he gambled on games.
Even recently as 2017, the Atlanta Braves GM was banned FOR LIFE and lost $40 million dollars’ worth of prospect signings. Once again, not for cheating, but for transfer infractions when signing young international players.
With that in mind, for the league to barely issue a punishment for a club-wide cheating scheme during a World Series is mind-blowing. I truly can’t believe it. MLB has lost its ethics and credibility.
The Old-Era of Cheating
MLB is still trying to shake off the dark decades where the league was plagued by unethical practices. Gambling, drugs, and cheating gripped the game of baseball through the 80s and 90s.
Performance Enhancement Drugs
MLB’s history with Performance Enhancement Drugs (PEDs), steroids, or more simply put “doping,” is a long and storied past.
During my childhood, it was the era of the big battle for top home run hitter in the league between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Later, fans would find out that both players were doping, and Sosa was even using a corked bat.
But drug use was rampant from top to bottom in the league. In 2005, the legendary Jose Canseco published a book about doping in baseball called “Juiced.” In the book he estimates, during his career, that 80% of the league was doping, and he largely credits his success in the game to his use of steroids.
In 2003, deadly left-handed pitcher David Wells told 60 Minutes that he estimated that “25% - 40%” of players were doping in the league while he played.
Perhaps the most famous case of doping in baseball came in 2007 when Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run off a 3-2 pitch in San Francisco, breaking Hank Aaron's all time home run record. The problem, of course, is that Hank Aaron wasn’t doping and Barry Bonds was.
Later, the league would let Bonds keep his record but permanently attacked the famous asterisk (*) to the record, denoting it was achieved by using steroids.
Doping in Other Sports
Many baseball fans have been conditioned to accept doping and cheating as part of the game—a poignant example of just how lost MLB has become. Barry Bonds kept his record, McGwire, Sosa, and company faced no major retributions for their cheating.
Even after players came out and whistleblew about drug use in the sport, the league did nothing but sit on its hands, doing everything possible to hide the fact.
Let’s contrast that to what happened when Lance Armstrong, once the World’s best cyclist, was caught doping.
Lance Armstrong Lost:
- All his sponsorships
- Banned from the sport for life
- Stripped of all 7 of his Tour de France medals
- Lost his Summer Olympics metal
That's how cycling dealt with doping in their highest ranks. They unequivocally cleaned house—absolutely destroying Armstrong’s career and legacy, among other riders who were also caught. And rightfully so.
When you contrast that with how MLB handled doping in their sport, you start to see how the league has lost all its integrity.
The difference is staggering.
Astros Sign Stealing in 2017
Now here we are in a new decade, well truthfully, a whole new millennium of baseball, yet the league hasn’t changed a damn bit when it comes to handling cheating within the sport.
As technology has advanced, so has the cheating schemes being used in the league. The Astros have now been caught filming the pitcher’s signs at home plate with a CCTV camera and relaying that information in real-time to the batter at the plate.
For those unaware, this is big-time against the rules. There can be no use of cameras or any technology to steal signs live during a game. The rules are clear. Every team and every player knows this.
Yet, in a desperate attempt to cheat their way to another World Series win, the Houston Astros decided to go ahead and blatantly cheat during the World Series.
The most offensive aspect: they didn’t even hide it. They couldn’t be bothered. Fans watching on TV were able to pick up on their cheating immediately.
Of course, this style of cheating gave the Astro’s batting a MASSIVE advantage knowing what type of pitch was coming before it was pitched, and their home numbers showed this (reference the graphic above).
The League’s Response
Okay the Astros were cheating, and they were caught. Perfect, now justice can be brought to bear. Surely, with the team cheating during the World Series in broad daylight in front of the entire nation, the league will bring the hammer down on the Astros?
Astros’ fans spent yesterday afternoon jumping for joy at how easy they got off. They feared that trophies could be taken way, players banned, excessive sanctions or fees could be levied against them.
Of course, none of this happened. Want to see how Astros’ fans really reacted to the great news of getting off almost scot-free? Take a look at these comments.
There is no way anyone will be able to convince me that the punishment was harsh but fair when Astros’ fans are celebrating in jubilation while fans across the nation grown in frustration. It should be the other way around.
The Question of Tarnishing
Of course, taking a page out of a political playbook, Houston’s top brass—in response to the story breaking—begin pushing out a narrative that, although they got caught cheating, it doesn’t tarnish their World Series win or their Division title.
No one outside of Texas is buying that line of garbage. If this incident didn’t tarnish their legacy, why immediately fire the GM and Manager?
If no one did anything wrong and getting caught cheating doesn’t mean anything, then why fire the top two guys?
I’ll tell you why: to scapegoat and try to build distance between the club and the incident. Why do they want to create distance between themselves and this debacle?
Because it tarnishes their entire franchise and their legacy. That’s why.
I can’t imagine what would have happened if the Astros weren't absolute scumbags and actually won the World Series this year. Then what would the league do then?
MLB isn't mad the Astros were cheating. The league is mad because they got caught.
For any struggling team, the league’s light response to this cheating scheme is a green light to any club that is desperate for success. A $5m fine for an MLB team isn’t a fine. It’s a luxury tax.
Any struggling club in the MLB would trade $5m and 4 draft spots to lift a World Series trophy, and after the league’s response this week, a club might actually just do that.