Lawsuits, Impenitence, and Anger Cast Shadow Over Upcoming MLB Season

Source: AP Photo/Matt Slocum

The team hasn’t adequately dealt with its cheating during the 2017 season, when Houston won the World Series, and just announcing that you’re moving forward doesn’t mean you can leave behind the damage you’ve done. – Mike Bolsinger

Major League Baseball has thirty teams strategically placed throughout two countries. The locations of teams have created natural rivalries: New York and Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and St. Lous and Chicago, just to name a few. Usually, these rivalries are between the fans and teams, but not necessarily the players. There an inner-code cemented in respect between those who play the game. However, a rivalry finally manifested itself between players: those who play for the Houston Astros, and those who don’t.

The start of Spring Training has been a disaster for baseball. Right off the bat, superstars like Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, and Cody Bellinger blasted how MLB handled the scandal. The fact that these players took such strong stances, in a sport where stars do not usually express strong opinions, reveals how salient these allegations are. Aaron Judge, arguably, lost an AL MVP award to an illegitimate champion, Jose Altuve of the Astros. Cody Bellinger, arguably, lost a World Series to an illegitimate champion, the Houston Astros. As the face of Baseball, Mike Trout said that “it sucks . . . because guys’ careers have been affected, a lot of people lost jobs.”

One of those people who allegedly lost their jobs is former pitcher Mike Bolsinger. Bolsinger pitched in 230.2 innings during his professional career with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Toronto Blue Jays. His last Major League appearance was against the defendant Astros, where Bolsinger allowed 4 runs while facing eight batters, only getting one out before he was relieved. Bolsinger, in a self-authored opinion in the Washington Post, said that his life completely changed after his demotion after his appearance against the Astros in 2017.

The lawsuits haven’t stopped there: with daily fantasy sports players suing last month, and a season ticket holder filing a suit for fielding a “deficient product.” The main claims that are prevalent in every case are negligence and violation of federal and state consumer protection statutes.

The aftermath has created a sense of fatuity that has not been seen since the steroid era. When the Astros arrived at spring training, it seemed there was a gross sense of impenitence with every statement made. Several players and representatives of the Astros downplayed the importance of cheating, asserting that they would have won the World Series regardless. Reports have even surfaced alleging that Astros’ owner Jim Crane believed that the scandal would blow over by Spring Training. Well, it is far from calm.

The lack of remorse, and downplaying of the scandal by almost everyone inside of the Astros organization, may be due to the ongoing lawsuits. Admitting any sort of guilt would play a huge role in determining the liability on the part of the Astros. There are three class-action lawsuits currently ongoing, representing former players, season ticket holders, and daily fantasy players. As the fallout continues, the parties involved in litigation with the Astros may multiply. Keeping quiet on the subject inside of the Astros’ West Palm Beach Spring Training facility would be best practice.

The future of this scandal is unknown. Major League Baseball does not have subpoena power, and cannot compel players to testify (would anyone like to resuscitate Deflategate to understand why?). MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred negotiated with the Major League Baseball Players’ Association for the Astros’ players to testify about what happened, exchanging immunity for the players’ acts. However, the current players have spoken up in mass disagreement with the Commissioner’s actions. After Commissioner Manfred called the Commissioner’s Trophy, given to the World Series champion, a piece of metal, players have piled on even more with their displeasure about Baseball’s handling of this scandal.

The Commissioner’s Office and the MLBPA have to step in and negotiate a fair punishment that will please all parties. Any punishment above the currently imposed penalty would most certainly conclude with a grievance by the MLBPA. However, if the punishment would stay the same, players may take things into their own hands and purposely injure players. Both parties must renegotiate to extricate themselves from their current status in purgatory.

If the current uproar from star players sets the tone for the union, it may mean that the MLBPA would be willing to head to the negotiating table. But, would MLB want to negotiate? The Commissioner’s Office is not an agent of Baseball, rather an agent of the owners. He has defended his current sentence and will release his punishment against the Boston Red Sox for sign-stealing allegations shortly. The Red Sox, who won the 2018 World Series following the Astros, may give Manfred a much needed public relations reprieve. However, coming up short again may further anger players and fans.

In times where fans are usually worried about the health of their team, they are now worried about the health of the game, with its undisputed enemy being the Houston Astros. With betting odds on Astros hit batters, enraged statements from league superstars along with unfavorable statements from the Astros, the blue skies that usually accompany summer baseball in Houston, Texas now have a dark cloud.

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