It was touted as the biggest sports scandal since Spygate and Deflategate in the NFL:
The MLB is expected to hand down a harsh penalty in the Houston Astros' electronic sign-stealing scandal. https://t.co/aOqFKt7W6k
— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) January 10, 2020
The Houston Astros got caught got stealing signs all the way into the postseason of 2017 when they beat the LA Dodgers in the World Series.
Major League Baseball announced the punishment on Monday:
BREAKING: Per sources, MLB’s penalties for #Astros include:
*One-year suspensions for GM Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch.
*Losses of 1st and 2nd round draft picks in both 2020 and ‘21.
*A fine of $5M.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 13, 2020
The Astros were ordered to pay a $5 million fine, forced to give up four draft picks, and ordered to suspend their GM and Manager. Houston fired both men.
The sports press made the sign-stealing operation seem like a sophisticated high tech scheme, but it boiled down to watching the catcher and banging on a trash can. It was more “Sandlot” than “Moneyball.”
The Astros put a camera in center field, stole the catcher’s signals to the opposing pitcher and then conveyed the signs to the batter by banging on a garbage can or sending texts:
“Astros employees in the team’s video replay room started to decode signs using the center field camera at the start of the 2017 season. A player would act as a runner to bring the information to the dugout, where a runner on second would be signaled. The runner would decode the catcher’s sign and signal the batter. At times, an employee in the replay room would convey the information by text message to the watch or phone of a staff member in the dugout.
… Cora arranged for a video monitor of the center field camera to be installed next to the dugout and players would communicate pitches by banging a bat or massage gun on a trash can. Two bangs usually were used for off-speed pitches and no sound for fastballs.”
So far Alex Cora’s fate is unknown. He went to the show of shows, Boston, after his success in Houston. Carlos Beltran went to the Mets.
Let’s not kid ourselves here. Teams have been stealing signs from time immemorial. Fred Flintstone stole Barney Rubble’s signs for crying out loud, but if you’re the MLB and you’re teeing up a high and tight purpose pitch, then why don’t you go for the
brass er platinum ring?
Celebrate the @Astros 2017 World Series championship at Astros Weekend, Aug. 4-5 in Cooperstown. This ring and the World Series trophy will be on display at the Hall of Fame. 📷Milo Stewart Jr. https://t.co/6eb9Wyqw0Y pic.twitter.com/M2HFMAUBC4
— National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum ⚾ (@baseballhall) August 3, 2018
The punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime. Something seems oddly amiss.
If you start game 7 of the 2017 World Series at 8:23 pm you'll ring in 2018 with Altuve fielding the final out and the astros winning it all at midnight. Happy 2018, everyone! pic.twitter.com/o06GhAiPUo
— Raheel Ramzanali (@The_Raheel) December 31, 2017
Don’t you give up the trophy and the title?
When you find out the 2017 World Series Trophy is at Academy…😍 Join us this Friday, October 12 from 5-7 p.m. at our Bunker Hill location (9734 Katy Fwy.) to relive the 2017 @astros World Series. pic.twitter.com/AjZyAA0Fik
— Academy Sports + Outdoors (@Academy) October 10, 2018
According to the Astros owner, no, you do not:
Jim Crane says this doesn't taint the #Astros' World Series title….others disagree
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 13, 2020
But many more said oh, yes, you do:
FACT: The #Astros cheated in 2017.
FACT: Their cheating gave them a significant advantage over their opponent.
FACT: Their World Series win will always be tainted.
OPINION: MLB should have stripped them of their title.
— Dan (@DanClarkSports) January 13, 2020
And if they don’t give up the title to the Dodgers there will always be an asterisk:
MLB sends a strong message:
You can cheat all you want
We'll let you keep your winnings
We'll only suspend your coach and GM 1 year
We'll only fine you $5M
And we'll only take away 4 draft picks that normally amount to nothing
Why not cheat more
Totally worth it #Astros pic.twitter.com/JhWxgh15Hn
— Russell Hartness (@RussellHartness) January 13, 2020
Some said it sent the wrong message:
Astros to MLB: “Ok, pleasure doing business with you.” pic.twitter.com/nw0Uo4A8s2
— McNeil (@Reflog_18) January 13, 2020
Houston made huge money from winning the 2017 World Series:
“In 2017, players earned a record $84.5 million from postseason bonuses, and the winning Houston Astros team split a record $30.4 million. The World Series runner-up, the Los Angeles Dodgers, split $20.3 million.
“The players’ pool” — which is divided among the 10 postseason clubs — “is formed from 50 percent of the gate receipts from the Wild Card Games; 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first three games of the Division Series; 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first four games of the League Championship Series; and 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first four games of the World Series,” according to the MLB.”
Imagine if the players had to give up their postseason checks.
Ain’t gonna happen.