By Liam Jeffries
The Houston Astros, once the toast of the baseball world, have been exposed as frauds. And baseball doesn’t seem to care.
When Major League Baseball released the results of its investigation into the team for electronic sign stealing and their punishments as a result of it, it confirmed the suspicion and paranoia felt by baseball fans and players alike. Since the sounds of banging trash cans first started to echo through Minute Maid Park, there have long been rumors that something wasn’t right in the Space City.
Like the 1919 Black Sox scandal, which saw members of the Chicago White Sox throw the World Series for money, the news of Astros cheating has left a World Series (2017) utterly tainted. Worse than 1919, the current issue calls into question multiple championship runs with the 2018 Boston Red Sox under former Astros bench coach Alex Cora (since dismissed by Boston) and the 2019 Astros’ American League pennant now indefinitely under suspicion.
It’s just a shame that, based on their rulings, Major League Baseball isn’t viewing this with urgency.
The punishments handed down to the Astros, while at first seeming huge and unprecedented, look more and more like slaps on the wrist as time goes on. The manager and general manager of the Astros each received one year, unpaid suspensions from baseball (followed swiftly by dismissals from Astros owner Jim Crane). The players who, as the investigation noted, played active roles in creating and fine-tuning the system, were left completely unscathed (as of this writing, the only player to receive any sort of punishment is Carlos Beltron with his firing by the New York Mets). And the Astros organization as a whole was fined a minuscule $5 Million by MLB, the maximum fine allowable under the circumstances.
These are punishments eons away from what fans demanded, especially Yankees and Dodgers fans still reeling from high-profile playoff losses to a team of cheaters. In the run-up and immediate aftermath of the investigation’s findings, calls for punishments ranging from player suspensions to an outright forfeiture of the Astros’ tainted championship could be heard everywhere, from sports talk-radio shows to the Los Angeles City Council (really). Given the lengths baseball has gone towards suspensions in the past, the measures against the Astros leave a lot to be desired.
When the aforementioned Black Sox Scandal erupted a century ago, eight players ultimately received lifetime bans. Pete Rose (rather controversially to some) is still serving a lifetime ban for betting on the results of baseball games while he was a player and manager. And while MLB controversially did not come down hard on steroid users in the 2000s, the policies in place now all but ensure lengthy suspensions and outright bans for players who test positive for PEDs. And the commissioner’s office has taken a strong stance on domestic violence, with Yankees pitcher Domingo German recently receiving what amounted to half a season.
It still remains to be seen what the results of the Red Sox investigation lead to but if the punishments for the Red Sox are as lax as what we’ve seen so far with the Astros, there are bad times ahead for the game indeed. Without any real deterrent, players and managers alike will be able to look at a soft punishment as proof that, if they’re caught pulling this, their suspensions will only be mere blips in their careers. They’ll just do better not to get caught.