The Astros cheating scandal has been sweeping across the United States, so, what punishments should MLB serve to those who are involved?
If you consider yourself a baseball fan, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, chances are that by now you’ve caught wind of the irrefutable evidence that shows that since the 2017 season, the Houston Astros have used a variety of methods to steal signs from opposing teams on their way to three playoff appearances and one World Series title. Having been beaten by the Astros in the ALCS in both 2017 and 2019, the Yankees and their fans were especially livid at these cheating allegations coming to light, as even the mild-mannered Aaron Judge took to Twitter to voice his displeasure at Houston for engaging in such sleazy cheating.
For years, the Astros organization has been suspected of being involved in some form of shady behavior in regard to pitch tipping and sign stealing, as MLB even went so far as to investigate them following the 2018 Astros-Indians ALDS, though at the time Houston was cleared of any wrongdoing. While stealing signs in baseball has been done for decades upon decades, Houston’s utilization of a camera and a team employee banging a trash can with a bat to communicate to Astros hitters what type pitch they were about to see certainly takes it to another level and can without question be classified as cheating.
The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich first broke the news of these cheating allegations this past Tuesday November 12th. Mike Fiers, a pitcher on the 2017 team, had informed Rosenthal and Drellich of his former team’s cheating methods. Fiers, who pitched for the Tigers and Athletics in 2018 and 2019, said that he felt obligated to inform his teammates on Detroit and Oakland of Houston’s cheating methods because he knew that a pitcher having one bad start at Minute Maid Park can potentially derail his career.
“I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing,” Fiers told Rosenthal and Drellich. “Young guys getting hit around in the first couple of innings starting a game, and then they get sent down. It’s bullsh*t on that end. It’s ruining jobs for younger guys. The guys who know are more prepared. But most people don’t. That’s why I told my team. We had a lot of young guys with Detroit trying to make a name and establish themselves. I wanted to help them out and say, ‘Hey, this stuff really does go on. Just be prepared.’ “
After the story broke, well-known Twitter and YouTube baseball personality Jomboy posted numerous videos that showed how the banging is heard within a matter of seconds after the catcher puts his signs down, showing that Houston must be using the technology that The Athletic reported about in order to communicate the signs that fast. Baseball Prospectus‘ Rob Arthur took it another step, showing that Houston’s trash can banging was so blatant that the audio data from Astros games could even be used to indicate when the banging was taking place.
More and more evidence working against Houston is coming out by the day. Just last night on November 16th, Rosenthal and Drellich published another article revealing that an Astros executive emailed a scout in August 2017 asking for assistance in figuring out ways to steal signs. Specifically, the email’s sender wrote that “One thing in specific we are looking for is picking up signs coming out of the dugout,” and that “What we are looking for is how much we can see, how we would log things, if we need cameras/binoculars, etc. So go to game, see what you can (or can’t) do and report back your findings.”
It would certainly not be a stretch to say that this Astros debacle is MLB’s biggest scandal since the 2013 Biogenesis scandal- if not bigger. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that in addition to investigating members of the Astros organization involved in the scandal, MLB has also contacted and plans to interview Red Sox manager Alex Cora and Mets manager Carlos Beltran, both of whom were members of the 2017 Astros, Cora as a bench coach and Beltran as a player. Passan also reported that if the league is able to prove any wrongdoing (which should be rather easy given all the evidence already compiled), “the severity (of the punishments) could be unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history.”
With that in mind, here’s a look at a number of the parties involved and how MLB could and should punish them: