An “Astro”nomically bad decision

The impact of cheating on the world of baseball

The Houston Astros were the 2017 World Series Champions, but was this honor earned?

Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license

The Houston Astros were the 2017 World Series Champions, but was this honor earned?

By Joe Flynn, Delaware Valley Regional High School

Recently the Astros were accused of using cameras and a trash can to “bang” signals to the batters concerning upcoming pitches.

The MLB commissioner, Robert Manfred, investigated the accusations and found enough evidence to prove that the Astros cheated. The penalties were harsh, but in my opinion, not harsh enough. The punishment includes that Astros manager, A.J. Hinch, and Astros general manager, Jeff Luhnow, be suspended (and were subsequently fired), that the team pay a 5 million dollar fine, and that their first and second round picks be taken away for the 2020 and 2021 MLB draft.

Through this investigation, the MLB found that the Astros used technology to gain an unfair advantage over their opponents in 2017. And as a diehard Yankees fan, that means that the Astros cheated against my team in the 2017 American League Championship Series (ALCS). The findings from this investigation may explain why, during the 2017 ALCS, the Astros won all 4 games at home, and lost all 3 games in New York, giving the Astros the win in this best out of 7 games series.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license
Mike Fiers, former Houston Astros pitcher, spoke up concerning his team’s signal stealing.

Former Astros pitcher, Mike Fiers, told The Athletic that the Astros stole signs. This means that the were giving the hitters an unfair advantage by telling them what pitch was coming. There is documented footage of the Astros cheating. One of the most prominent pieces of evidence came from a game when the Astros were facing the White Sox. Hitter Evan Gattis wass facing off against pitcher Danny Farquhar. Every time the catcher would signal to throw a change-up, a trash can would be banged by an Astros player telling Gattis to take the pitch. Farquhar noticed after he threw multiple change-up signals, he heard the banging sound and called over his catcher to change the signal. After they changed the sign, Farquhar threw a change-up and struck Gattis out.

It is also suspicious that the Astros hitters were better at home during the postseason than when they were away. As the Astros won the World Series that year, the team should be stripped of its World Series title as it was not earned fairly.

No players are being punished, but it is well-known that they played a part in the scandal. Alex Cora, the Astros bench coach in 2016-2017, and Carlos Beltran, a 20-year player who played for the Astros for one year, are also involved in the investigation as the MLB found they were instrumental in the cheating scandal. Cora is reportedly going to be punished for his role, but Beltran will not be punished because he was a player at the time. Cora could possibly be suspended for at least 1 year because not only did he cheat with the Astros, but he also cheated as a manager with the Red Sox by using an Apple watch during a game against the Yankees.  He and the Red Sox have parted ways since this scandal broke to the public.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license
Barry Bonds, one of baseball’s all-time greats, was also accused of using steroids to improve his performance.

Cheating is not new to the baseball world.  It has been a part of baseball for decades in the forms of steroids, the spitball, pine tar, scuffing the ball, corked bats, and many more. As a Yankees fan, I can’t argue that the players haven’t used steroids or, in one instance, pine tar. However, using technology and having the players involved in a sign-stealing system is much worse. Cheating has been instrumental in major parts of baseball history. For example “the shot heard round the world” was a home run hit by Bobby Thompson, a player for the then New York Giants, against the then Brooklyn Dodgers that won the game in the deciding game 3 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS). It was alleged, and now accepted, that the Giants used a buzzer to relay signals to Bobby Thompson that the pitcher was going to throw a fastball.

These cheating scandals have dramatically impacted games and championships, and they have deceived teams’ fans, opponents and all of baseball. The acts of a few people can end up involving an entire organization; this includes steroid-users like Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGuire, Jason Giambi, Barry Bonds, and Jose Canseco whose steroid use place doubt upon a team’s earning its achievements. The Astros players who were involved in this most recent scandal should be suspended  and receive a postseason ban of at least 1 year. Or, if a postseason ban is too harsh, the Astros shouldn’t be allowed to play at home for the entire playoffs as the cheating happened at their home field.

When the Astros and Red Sox cheated, baseball fans everywhere were cheated. Whatever the punishment ends up being for everyone involved, cheating must be taken seriously by the MLB for the sake of the fans who love the game.

This story was originally published on The Delphi on January 16, 2020.