In the middle of February, there usually isn’t a ton happening in sports. The NBA and NHL are in the back half of their regular season, the NFL is dormant and MLB teams are reporting for Spring Training, normally a boring occurrence in an average year.
This year, however, is a little different.
For those of you who might still be unaware, the Houston Astros have been caught in an elaborate, team wide, multi-year cheating scandal. The scandal involved using cameras to steal signs, so hitters could know what pitch was coming next.
The scandal also is likely to have included players wearing buzzers on their bodies, as they were being fed a morse code message telling them what pitch was coming.
This scandal was leaked with the promise that the players involved would be granted immunity, a stipulation that makes very little sense to me. Three of the coaches involved have been fired and suspended for various lengths, but that has essentially been the only punishment doled out.
The reality is that the Astros won the 2017 World Series, cheating the entire way. They were rewarded with a trophy and the fame, money and prestige that comes with that. Jose Altuve won the AL MVP award that season, an award clearly tainted by having a distinct advantage.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has been nothing but incompetent during this period. When it comes to the discussion of taking away the trophy or MVP award, Manfred said “The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act.”
He is essentially saying that winning a championship and playing with integrity don’t matter…. Tough message to the public from the spokesman of the league. Nothing gets fans excited for a sport like saying the leagues championship and playing fair isn’t important.
Astros owner Jim Crane has also been downright embarrassing. In the same news conference, Crane uttered the following statements. “I want to say again how sorry our team is for what happened. I want to repeat this will never happen again on my watch.” Followed by: “This didn’t impact the game. We had a great team. We won the World Series.” How out of touch with reality can one be?!
Crane isn’t the only one being wishy-washy with their apologies. Almost every player that was involved has apologized for their actions, but have not been remorseful. They don’t think they should be punished or that the title should be taken away.
Basically, they are sorry they got caught.
Other MLB players around the league aren’t taking the lack of punishments very well. Players have spoken up in a big way, saying things like: the Astros need a beating, this scandal is worse than steroids, the title doesn’t hold any value and the apologies are a disgrace.
I’m running out of space, but if you are bored, there is a plethora of data that you can look at directly correlating to this scandal. But let’s look at one local example.
Twins infielder Marwin Gonzalez batted a career high .303 in 2017 for the Astros by over .20 points, hit a career high 23 home runs, knocked in a career high 90 RBI’s (39 more than his previous career high).
Because of his inflated stats due to cheating, the Twins signed him to a 2 year, $21 million deal, money he certainly wouldn’t have earned had he batted .250 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI’s like he had previously done. This is essentially fraud.
Baseball already has a shrinking audience for many reasons. Add in a three year, super in-depth cheating scandal where none of the players are punished or remorseful, the management doesn’t regret it and the commissioner does nothing about it, and baseball has a serious problem on its hands.