Did the MLB properly handle Astros cheating?


Keith Allison

Astros players were under fire from players and fans alike following the sign stealing scandal. “The players should have received some sort of punishment. Once you’re an outcast in the minds of the fans the punishment speaks for itself” said Camden Guay ‘20.

Ryan Coutu, News Editor

Was the largest cheating scandal in recent baseball history mishandled? After evidence arose in which the Houston Astros used an elaborate sign stealing scheme, including cameras and trash can banging during their 2017 World Series Championship, little punishment was brought upon the coaching staff and no punishment was brought against the players. Many fans have called for greater penalties against the Astros, and comments by Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred have only riled them up.

Sign stealing itself has been a part of baseball since its creation. Keeping your signs safe and trying to understand the other teams is a chess match within the game of baseball. Pitchers, catchers and coaches have created elaborate sign systems, some even changing every inning, to avoid it being revealed. However, the use of technology, such as when the Astros used video surveillance to gather signs or their alleged use of electronic body buzzers, is heavily looked down upon. After an investigation by the MLB, Astors’ Coach AJ Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow were fired; however, the players were left untouched.

Baseball fans were outraged by the fact that players who utilized the system were given no punishment. “The players definitely should have received some punishment and it should have been based on the amount that they used the system,” said member of the HB Varsity Baseball team and MLB Fanatic Camden Guay ‘20. Guay echoes many fans with similar feelings regarding MLB’s lack of accountability of the players.

Letting the players off scot free is where Manfred has been most criticized. The consensus is that both players and coaches who were involved with the sign stealing scandal should be punished in some way, especially when they both benefited from cheating. However, Manfred brings up an important point. During the investigation, many players were granted immunity in exchange for testifying in the case. Manfred said that “I know we would not even have known the facts here, and no one would have been disciplined, had we not proceeded the way we elected to proceed,” reported New York Times. Player immunity is a double-edged sword. If you do not grant immunity, you may not get any information regarding the scandal. Once given immunity, however, the players cannot individually be punished.

One fan proposed solution is for the Astros to be forced to give up their 2017 World Series Title. It shouldn’t be fair that a team that cheated to win the World Series should be able to keep it. However, Manfred was against this proposed solution, and his response faced even greater criticism from players and fans alike. “Asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act,” said Manfred, angering numerous players. Dodgers Third Baseman Justin Turner, responding to Manfred, said “the reason every guy’s [plays]… is specifically for that trophy, which, by the way, is called the commissioner’s trophy. So for him to devalue it the way he did yesterday just tells me how out of touch he is with the players in this game. At this point, the only thing devaluing that trophy is that it says ‘commissioner’ on it.” 

Going through with stripping their title, however, may be arbitrary at this point. “Let them keep the 2017 trophy, as the fans will always remember the asterisk that lies beside it. If nothing else, it serves as a better reminder for future teams to play the game clean and hard so that players, coaches, and fan bases are able to be forever proud of their team’s accomplishments,” said Guay. While the Astros will most likely keep the trophy, one thing is clear. Fans of the game will always know that it was undeserving. 

While heavily unpopular, I believe that Manfred’s end decision was correct. Without offering immunity to players, who knows where we would be in knowing about the scandal and how long it might have continued. Pulling the trophy now is a futile act with no great solution if acted upon. However, how Manfred handled the investigation and most importantly his responses were not in line with baseball’s fans nor players.