This past offseason was one of the most active and dramatic the MLB has seen in recent history. Compared to the past couple of offseasons, this year MLB fans witnessed big name free agents getting paid faster, more trades, and the biggest scandal the sport has seen since the steroid era. Many could not believe the Houston Astros, the 2017 World Series Champions, were accused of conducting an elaborate system to steal other team’s signs.
After the report from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred came out, the country was shocked by the levels of sophistication the Astros used. It was revealed that the Astros had set up a camera in center field and then put up a monitor between the clubhouse and dugout. Players could study the signs the pitcher was receiving from the catcher, identify what pitch was going to be thrown and then communicate that to the batter either by noise (banging on a trash can) or possibly other means.
So, what did this trash can orchestra lead to? The MLB handed Houston one-year bans for their manager and GM (both fired), forfeiture of first and second round picks in the next two drafts, and a $5 million fine. Houston then fired their manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow. The Red Sox and Mets then fired their managers Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran for their roles when they were with Houston.
I believe that this punishment was completely fair. Obviously the two in charge needed to be suspended. There was no precedent for this because the game has not seen a scandal like this. A year was fine since the scandal only lasted a year. In the end, the Hinch and Luhnow will likely not be allowed in the MLB anytime soon. It would not be fair to punish other coaches and players involved because they are scattered on different teams, and punishing them now would also unfairly punish those teams. If you are not punishing all the players, you also cannot punish those still on the Astros. The fine given was the most the MLB could give and losing draft picks, will significantly hamper the club’s future.
Many people also wanted a postseason ban or removal of the World Series title. Both of these are trivial. The MLB wants to continue and put this behind them. Keeping one of the best teams or any team for that matter out of the postseason not only affects that team and the city’s local economy but also the league. As for the removal of the title, that does no good. Everyone will still remember the Astros as champs; you cannot just crown one of the teams they beat the new champion. There is no satisfaction in that, and it will only create controversy.
-Joseph Quirk ’23
If a player in the MLB tests positive for steroids, they receive an 80-game suspension, a second failed test leads to a full season, a third leads to a lifetime ban from baseball. Former player/manager Pete Rose was banned from baseball for betting on games. Even players who were suspected of taking steroids have had their reputation tarnished to the point that it has prevented them from being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The punishment for using cameras to steal an opponent’s signs: nothing. After Major League Baseball investigated and found the Houston Astros guilty for using technology to steal signs, manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were each suspended for a year by the league and subsequently fired by Houston. The team was fined and lost four draft picks over the next two years. Meanwhile, the players were granted immunity for their cooperation in the investigation.
While the MLB recognized handing suspensions down to the players would trigger a battle with the Players’ Union, not even giving a fine to any of the players puts all the blame on Hinch and Luhnow. While both knew of the scheme, Hinch broke a TV monitor twice to show his displeasure in the scheme.
It is unfair that Hinch and Lunhow are taking the full brunt of the punishment of the scandal. It may be the leaders’ jobs to make sure that their team complies with the rules (which both failed to do), but they are working with grown men who were very aware they were breaking the rules.
Finding the extent of the involvement of each player is hard to pinpoint exactly, but if there is no punishment to teach players to not cheat, what is preventing another scandal from happening again? Even a basic fine can dissuade players on cheaper salaries from participating.
The only player from the 2017 team who has gotten any sort of punishment was Carlos Beltrán. Beltrán was hired by the New York Mets in the fall to become their new manager.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred made it clear that it will be on the leadership of each team to make sure everyone in the dugout and front office complies with the rules, taking the pressure off the players. What hurt Hinch was that he trusted his players too much and failed to intervene when he needed to.
Very few players have come forward to apologize, and no one still on the team has spoken. The people who led this scheme need to be held accountable for breaking the rules. The men who failed to stop it will serve their time, but how about the ones who were the ringleaders?
-Jack Belanger ’21