We touched on the Houston Astros cheating scandal a short while back, which can be found here. Now, however, the dust has begun to settle, and punishments have been handed out. Per ESPN, the MLB handed out one-year suspensions for now former Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and now former Astros manager AJ Hinch, and also took of draft picks in the 2020 and 2021 MLB drafts, and handed the Houston club a $5 million fine. These punishments may be considered harsh, or lenient, depending largely on who you ask, but its clear that the league has a strong interest in maintaining the integrity of baseball. For the most part, sign stealing happens in baseball, the opposing team can sometimes pick up on signs from base coaches, or from a pitcher’s tip, and its on the individuals giving the signs to take preventative measures to avoid theft, but the use of mechanical devices and video-taping set the Houston Astros over the line.
It’s promising to see the MLB acting so proactively on this issue, as others who have connection to the scandal, with the Boston Red Sox firing manager Alex Cora when he was implicated in the investigation for his time serving as the bench coach in Houston, and recently hired New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran stepping down earlier this month, though his termination was likely incoming, as Beltran was the only player named in the Houston investigation.
In our previous article, we attempted to compare the punishments to those handed out in the NFL in the past. Like the New England Patriots in the fallout of Spygate, the Astros organization faced a hefty fine, and the team lost draft picks, but the punishments differ in that Astros officials are facing year-long suspensions, and the team has taken action in terminating the wrongdoers. Baseball fans and pundits understandably have strong opinions on this situation, including this to the point statement from ESPN;
“I don’t think it’s shocking it all. To steal from the NCAA, you can call it a loss of institutional control, and Luhnow, Hinch and the organization had to pay a severe penalty — and Manfred certainly handed one down. For those arguing that using technology to steal signs is going on throughout the sport and that the Astros don’t deserve to be punished for what everyone else also might be doing, I disagree. The Astros got caught and got caught doing it in a year they won the World Series. This is exactly how you tell an entire sport to knock it off. You go after the big boys and send a strong message that this will not be tolerated. It’s time for baseball to return to a competition between players — not a competition between technology.”ESPN’s David Schoenfield
Perhaps the MLB’s severe reaction compared to the NFL’s says more about the way the MLB perceives the integrity of its own game, or perhaps it says nothing at all, after all, the situations are only similar in theory and not perfect mirror images of each other. Regardless, it’s hard to believe this is the last we’ll hear of this situation, and its possible more punishments may be handed out as more information is acquired, so stay tuned. The MLB has taken a strong stance on this situation, that the integrity of the game will not be compromised, and as a fan of the sport, it’s refreshing to see.