There have been two major events in our new decade that rocked the world. First, the United States killed the leading terrorist in the world, Qassem Soleimani. The second is our national pastime was hit with a scandal as big as the Black Sox scandal a century ago. The Houston Astros – 2017 World Series Champions and perennial contenders — were revealed to have systematically and electronically stolen signs from the opposing catchers and provided that information to their hitters, thus giving them a tremendous advantage. The more lasting event is the sign stealing scandal.
To not color my take on this matter, I am first and foremost a baseball fan. Yes, I am a Dodger fan, but that is the only National League team I follow. In the American League I would cheer for every team in the World Series except for the evil empire – aka The Yankees. This is all about the integrity of the game I love and have played and followed my entire life. I was able to turn my wife into a baseball fan (actually Kirk Gibson did), saving my marriage from endless disputes. Now the Beautiful Wife has baseball credentials which would make serious baseball fans salivate. It is all about the game.
Let’s address the issues of the Astros. They were an outstanding baseball team in 2017 with many great players. The 2017 World Series would have been competitive on its own. As for the spreading of the scandal to the 2018 season and the yet reported cheating by the Red Sox, Boston was clearly a superior team to the Dodgers and everyone else they played in the playoffs. The Dodgers fell into the World Series in 2018 by being the best of a mediocre group of NL teams. With all the talent the Astros and presumably the Red Sox had, the question is why would you do this? The wins and their skills will be forever tarnished. We will never know how good they really were at the time.
To explain why we will never know, let us discuss what has not been clearly explained in all this mess – what really happened. Batters go the plate to face a highly skilled pitcher who has an array of typically two-to-five pitches. The ball is coming at them anywhere from 93-100 mph for a fastball and a somewhat slower speed for a curveball, slider or various versions of pitches that are rising, diving, slanting and/or dropping off to the ground. These batters have a split second to decide or to guess what is coming at them once the ball leaves the hand of the pitcher. Mind you it is an educated guess, but still a guess. And these pitches come at them from 60 feet, 6 inches away — or less depending on the stride of the pitcher. They then try to connect a bat with the ball and send it sailing through the air toward an empty spot between eight fielders or ideally over a wall. If they don’t have to guess what is coming at them — if they are illegally told what is coming at them by electronic surveillance from their team — then the batter has an incalculable advantage. Despite that advantage, batters still fail most of the time because the act of hitting a baseball thrown by a major league pitcher is the single most difficult task in sport. Just ask Michael Jordan.
When Commissioner Rob Manfred came out with his punishment, it initially sounded severe. It is not even close. Suspending the Astros general manager and the manager (who were fired soon after) and fining the team $5 million is just the start. First and foremost, the title should be pulled. It should not be given to the Dodgers. There should be no declared winner of the 2017 WS. Anyone walking into Minute Maid Park will know or should know the win is a joke, so why perpetuate a joke. Just pull it.
Next, Astros owner Jim Crane should be forced to sell the team. Let’s blame the help. No. The organization stinks from the top and the guy must go. He is a blight on our national pastime. Frank McCourt was forced to sell the Dodgers (a glorious day for Los Angeles and all of America) on far less serious matters. This is the worst stain on baseball in over a century. Why would we let this despicable human continue to tarnish our game?
After he sells the team, a fund (let’s say $500 million) should be escrowed to pay for damages against players (pitchers) that was done by the improper actions of Crane’s team throughout the season. An independent body of former baseball players and executives (I am available) should go through video of every Astros home game and determine whether players’ careers or reputations were harmed because of the activities of the Astros. Players might have incurred unfair removal from a roster for failure to pitch well against the Astros when the true reason or their opponents’ advantage was unbeknownst at the time. Payouts should be made to compensate them for lost earnings to them and their families.
We have not even gotten into the Astro players and their guilt. But somehow people are pretending the players were bystanders here. They were not. They were active and willing participants. An evaluation of who participated should be made and they should be fined/suspended. Not to worry — the Astros have minor league players ready, willing and able to fill their spots.
The good news comes out of Houston. I spoke to a close friend of mine who is as furious about this as I am. He stated he is a baseball fan first. He told me he has yet to speak to a Houstonian who is not irate at what happened. Clearly there is some integrity left in this world.
Commissioner Manfred — do the right thing. Pull the title, make Crane sell the team and fine/suspend the players. Make the penalties match the crime and save the great name of baseball, assuring this never ever happens again.