The 2019 Major League Baseball (MLB) season ended on October 30th, when the Houston Astros lost to the eventual World Series champs, the Washington Nationals. We are now in mid-January with the NFL playoffs heating up, and yet, all anyone is talking about is baseball.
Back in November, The Athletic reported an account from former Houston Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, where he indicated that the Houston Astros were stealing signs electronically during the 2017 season which resulted in Houston winning its first World Series title since entering the league in 1962.
After a lengthy investigation conducted by MLB, one-year suspensions were handed out to Astros’ manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. The Houston Astros were also fined five million dollars and the team is forced to forfeit first-round and second-round draft picks for the next two seasons. Houston Astros owner, Jim Crane, fired Hinch and Luhnow soon after the news broke in a press conference Monday morning.
This news created a ripple effect across the league, forcing teams like the Red Sox and the New York Mets to part ways with their managers. Alex Cora, who previously served as the Boston Red Sox manager, was fired for his involvement in developing the sign-stealing scheme during his tenure with the Houston Astros as the bench coach during the 2017 season. Interesting enough, it was reported that during the 2018 season, the Red Sox also illegally used its video replay room to steal signs. MLB has yet to hand out a punishment to Cora for that violation.
The New York Mets Drop the Ball
Carlos Beltrán was named manager of the New York Mets in November of 2019, and then agreed to mutually part ways two months later. He never even coached a game. Beltrán who was a player at the time for Houston in 2017, was also instrumental in devising the scheme to help the Astros decode and steal signs.
The Mets found a way to draw even more negative attention to the situation, as only the Mets could, by being unusually quiet about the situation while other teams took swift action and distance themselves from those involved in this PR nightmare. It was also reported that the Mets did not do their due diligence by even attempting to question Beltrán about his potential involvement in the scandal and the organization was torn on letting him go.
Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?
The players who were involved in the sign-stealing incident will not be punished, Jim Crane will remain the owner of the Houston Astros, and the Houston Astros still have their World Series championship title even after being convicted of cheating during the regular season as well as the postseason.
MLB has asked all clubs not to comment on the situation. However, players are speaking out to voice their disgust and frustration with the Astros players. Mike Clevinger, pitcher for the Cleveland Indians said, “They shouldn’t feel comfortable looking at any of us in the eye let alone on the field and any other MLB player who feels different, they can get it too.”
According to ESPN reporter, Jeff Passan, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred let teams know what the punishment would be for the Houston Astros during a conference call, and owners were dissatisfied with the result. “The impression,” one person familiar with the call told ESPN, “was that the penalty for complaining would be more than Houston got.”
It was also reported by Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated that eight other teams used technology for sign-stealing during the 2017-2018 timeframe.
It’s unclear what the future holds for MLB. How will they guarantee that this doesn’t happen again? Is there anything that can be done to ensure technology isn’t used to steal signs moving forward? Though Rob Manfred indicated new protocols will be implemented by Opening Day to prevent cheating, the integrity of the game is still at stake as this offseason has left a sour taste in the mouth of players and fans alike.