Major League Baseball Put a Band-Aid on a Gaping Cheating Wound
How do you fix a problem which evolved from technology and is seemingly used by a ton of teams---most prominently ones who are/were in the playoffs or in one case...won a Championship?? There's not a simple answer if you are Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, if you have a limited scale of punishment you can dole out.
However the punishment handed out to the Houston Astros and team owner Jim Crane for what thus far has been an unprecedented video sign stealing scandal---basically amounts to a slap on the wrist.
Five-million dollars, loss of top draft picks for two draft cycles and suspensions for the now former Manager and G.M....a mere pittance to pay for a World Championship.
Mind you, this is primarily based on the "Sign Stealing" the team, tipping hitters to what pitches were coming. Using cameras and a way to relay messages to the guys at the play so they knew what was coming. It mentions, albeit briefly, the "Problematic" atmosphere within the team management structure and the impression it leaves to most of us not in MLB....is that now former G.M Jeff Lunehow just nodded and didn't sweat over doing what was right as long as the Astros were winning.
Now former Manager A.J Hinch was well aware of what was going on too, even if there was evidence he tried to stop it before giving up. According to the investigation, he twice tried to break the monitor in the Astros tunnel being used to help steal signs, when it kept being replaced--he Hinch gave up. Hinch will sit out the 2020 season and likely will find himself a new job come 2021.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the other people tied to this: now former Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora and current Mets manager Carlos Beltran. The investigation lists Cora as the person who helped develop the Astros system as a coach during the 2017 season and the Red Sox are now under investigation for utilizing a similar system in Cora's first season (2018).
Cora stepped down from his role as Boston's Manager before his likely suspension though the Red Sox are still under investigation. Beltran has denied everything and his role and fate it still to be determined.
((ed.note: I didn't get too much into The Red Sox issues because the investigation is still ongoing and not quite as clear--same with Carlos Beltran))
I could go on and on about this being a "Baseball" thing and how "If you ain't first, you're last" but that's an excuse. I get technology has advanced to the point it makes cheating an easy temptation and most do it in some form or another. But what the Astros did was blatant, in the open and did not totally surprise those in the game.
It took some investigative reporting by The Athletic to bring all of it to the light and trigger the sequence of events now in place.
The question though is this: Did the punishment fit the crime? I can't really say not being a baseball "Insider" but on the surface, it sure doesn't seem like much. The draft picks are nothing to the Astros nor is the $5 million fine. Losing Hinch and Lunehow hurts a bit, but by no means are their loss crippling.
From what I've read, the fine is the most Manfred is allowed to dole out, so I get that. But why not hit the team in other ways??
The Astros won the World Series in 2017 when this was happening. Most observers believe the sign stealing was a big part of the reason why. If you want to hurt them for doing this: Take away the title....
Heck the City of Los Angeles is now working on a resolution to ask MLB to give the 2017 and 2018 World Series title to the Dodgers. Read the LA Times story HERE
Hear me out: Major League Baseball has to draw a hard line in the sand. No, they'll never totally stamp out bending the rules to a teams advantage and I'm not advocating that. But if you want to let everyone know what the Astros did can't be tolerated, take away what the cheating helped them get...
Yes it is a totally unprecedented move but I guarantee it will scare the crap out of anyone considering cheating. I know full well that would never happen, but imagine if it did....
I know there are 40,000,000 people with 39,000,000 ideas on how the Astros should have been punished for taking advantage of a huge loophole in the system. But if you don't draw that line---it's only going to encourage people to go further.
The technology exists to put this to a stop--to make sure players in the dugout and on the field don't have access to video during a game. It's going to be up to Major League Baseball to make sure they've accounted for anything and everything some wayward player or coach can come up with to bend the rules....
Congratulations Jim Crane and the Astros, yup, you've got a World Championship which apparently now will be never taken away from you. Just remember karma is a bitch and at some point, some time, somewhere, she'll come back and take her revenge.