I’m sure you’ve heard the popular phrase, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” Everyone cheats. We cheat on our diets when we sneak in some late-night ice cream. Your drunk uncle cheats in Uno when he stashes some extra wild cards in his hand. Hell, men and women cheat on their significant others all the time. If we’re so used to cheating, do we actually care about the Astros’ cheating scandal in baseball?
By now, you probably know about the Houston Astros and their sign-stealing scandal that dates back to 2016. The year is noteworthy because the Astros won the World Series in 2017 and fell one game short of winning it all in 2019. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred conducted an investigation and handed out punishments: manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow received one-year suspensions, loss of 1st and 2nd round draft picks in 2020 and 2021, and a $5 million fine.
Clearly, the majority of baseball fans including myself viewed this as a slap on the wrist and the outcry for harsher punishments were evident. To avoid the PR nightmare, the Astros fired Hinch and Luhnow. From there, two of the ring leaders in the scandal, Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran, also lost their managerial jobs with the Red Sox and Mets, respectively.
The main lesson from all of this may end up being to not fuck with the Internet. And, don’t bang trash cans to steal signs.
And don’t piss off Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger.
And don’t wear buzzers on your chests (?).
Now that you’ve read my Wikipedia entry above, let’s get down to business. Do we actually care about the Astros’ cheating scandal? Yes, I care, but it’s not black and white and there is a level of hypocrisy.
Full disclosure, I am a Yankees fan. The Astros have been a thorn in my side for the past three seasons. From Altuve’s multiple home runs to Verlander’s endless strikeouts, the Astros contributed to my seasonal depression over the winter. Therefore, I’m fully invested in this scandal.
Before I’m accused of throwing stones in glass houses, I’m fully aware the Yankees have cheated before. If you’re anti-steroids, then you can have a field day on Yankees in the late 90s and early 00s. I’m aware that Yankees violated a rule that deals with the use of the dugout phone. I’m also aware the Yankees used their video room to try and decode signs from 2015-2017 before rules were put into place during the 2018 season. If you want to attack the Yankees for all of that, have a field day. However, it’s not like the Yankees were the only team using steroids and trying to decode signs in the replay room.
Now, I feel that I can now speak on what the Astros did, which is bullshit. I’m fully aware every team tries to cheat including my own, but what the Astros did took what we view as cheating and raised it to the tenth power. If you can decode signs without the help of electronics, by all means, go for it. It’s like when Mike D discovered Teddy KGB’s tell in Rounders. That’s gamesmanship. I’m all for it.
However, the Astros used a center field camera to spy on the catcher’s signs, decode them in the replay room, and bang trash cans to relay the message to the batter. That’s cheating. Plus, imagine if there’s concrete evidence that the players were wearing buzzers on their chests. The Astros are very talented, but if the buzzer rumor is true, is their World Series title legit? I’m not giving it an asterisk, but it’s clouded in controversy.
So here I am as a conflicted baseball fan. In a game that has had countless instances of cheating, does this cheating scandal matter? It does matter. What the Astros did was bullshit and they should be punished. I’m not one to take away a World Series, but after Altuve and Bregman’s unapologetic comments, I’m willing to consider suspensions for the players involved. The players do not receive the benefit of the doubt, anymore. The coaches should not be the only ones who fall on the sword.
I’d like to believe the majority of fans care about this scandal, but as baseball has taught us, some other scandal will come in a few years and the Astros sign-stealing will be in the rearview mirror. Until then, I’m going to care and I hope you (pretend to) care, too.
Do you care about the cheating scandal? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.