So, how about those Houston Astros, huh?
We’re months away from the 2020 Major League Baseball season beginning, but the sport has been all over the headlines the past week because of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.
Houston has been baseball’s model franchise over the past three seasons. The Astros won 311 games from 2017-19, claiming three American League West titles, reaching the World Series twice and winning it all in 2017. All of this was the culmination of a process that began with Houston tanking from 2011-13 in order to build the resources needed to turn the Astros into a championship team. Other teams have tried to emulate the Astros, including the Seattle Mariners, who are currently trying to follow the path of their AL West rivals.
But that has now been tainted by a scandal that has rocked the baseball world.
Last Monday MLB announced unprecedented sanctions against the Astros for using technology to steal pitch signs during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were both suspended by the league and subsequently fired by Houston. The Astros were fined $5 million and made to forfeit their first- and second-round picks in the next two drafts.
This all stems from an article published in The Athletic in November in which former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers revealed the method of how Houston stole signs. The Astros had a video monitor installed near their dugout which displayed the feed from the center-field camera. A player would watch the monitor to see the catcher’s sign to the pitcher indicating the upcoming pitch. The player would then signal to the batter which pitch was coming by banging on a nearby trash can.
The reaction has been off the charts. Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was the Astros’ bench coach in 2017, and New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran, who played for Houston in 2017, have also been fired because of their involvement. Players on opposing teams have decried the Astros’ actions. It’s even spawned conspiracy theories about the other ways in which the Astros might be using technology to steal signs.
The reaction, particularly from opposing players, has been interesting, considering sign stealing has always been a part of the game, and the baseball culture often encourages cheating. There’s a book that was written many years back called It Ain’t Cheatin’ If You Don’t Get Caught that details the underhanded ways in which teams have tried to gain an advantage over the years. Baseball teams have been caught using scoreboard lights in sign-stealing schemes, and players have been caught corking their bats. When I played in high school we were coached to cut five to 10 feet off when rounding third base on a specific play when we knew no umpire would be watching.
But technology has made these efforts easier, and baseball ha decided it needed to take big action now.
Yet baseball didn’t take the biggest action possible. While the Astros were certainly penalized to a large degree, they were not stripped of their crowning achievement: their 2017 World Series title. The biggest statement MLB could have taken would have been to erase Houston’s championship, but the powers that be decided that while the crime provided an illegal competitive advantage that warranted job losses and big fines, it didn’t warrant the forfeiture of any games.
So what do you think. Should the Astros have been stripped of their 2017 World Series championship? Let us know your opinion here: