Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Random Thoughts On The Astros/Red Sox Scandal

Lucky you! Two posts in one day! I wanted to get these thoughts down while they were still fresh in my mind. Fair warning, this is a long post. There's a lot to digest here, and I'm using quotes from the official report (in bold) to somewhat organize my thoughts. I apologize if I repeat similar thoughts throughout the post as well.

- First off, this sucks. It's a black eye for all of baseball. I'm disappointed, and the fact my team has a hand in it hurts.
On November 12, 2019, former Houston Astros player Mike Fiers publicly alleged in an article published by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic that the Astros had engaged in sign-stealing methods in 2017 that violated MLB’s rules. The allegations in the article created significant concern among many of our fans and other MLB Clubs regarding the adherence to our rules by those participating in our games, and the principles of sportsmanship and fair competition.
- If there is one thing that the Steroids Era should have taught us about how MLB and the owners operate, it's that they don't care about what goes on with the game as long as the money keeps flowing in. The only reason this investigation happened at all is because a player came forward and a high profile article was published. If it wasn't for this public outcry, we would still all be blissfully unaware.
Approximately two months into the 2017 season, a group of players, including
Carlos Beltr├ín, discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams’ signs and communicating the signs to the batter.
- Why is Beltran the only player in this group named in this report? Ironic how it happens to be someone that not only is no longer on the team, but retired and no longer a player. For an investigative report, a lot of facts seem to be omitted.

- Speaking of Beltran, it'll be interesting how this affects his new job as Mets manager. Will he even get to keep it?

- I wonder if Hall of Fame voters will treat this scandal in the same light as they do with players connected to PEDs. Does Beltran's chances of induction take a Barry Bonds level hit?
Witnesses consistently describe this new scheme as player-driven, and with the exception of Cora, non-player staff, including individuals in the video replay review room, had no involvement in the banging scheme.
- What bothers me the most is that, outside of Alex Cora, the main culprits will get off without so much a slap on the wrist. This is squarely on the players, and they should have received some form of punishment. More on this in a bit.
However, witnesses made clear that everyone proximate to the Astros’ dugout preemptively heard or saw the banging. 
- I find this statement very interesting. Last time I checked, the coaching staff consisted of more than just the manager and bench coach. How come none of the other coaches are being held accountable? Why do they get to keep their jobs? Does anyone honestly believe the hitting coach was blind to all this? Did any of them try to stop it?

- This also means the starting pitchers were in on this too, if not the whole pitching staff. They may not have benefited in the batter's box, but they benefited from the resulting wins. I'm sorry, but Justin Verlander's Hall of Fame case takes a bit of a hit here.
Many of the players who were interviewed admitted that they knew the scheme was wrong because it crossed the line from what the player believed was fair competition and/or violated MLB rules. Players stated that if Manager A.J. Hinch told them to stop engaging in the conduct, they would have immediately stopped.
- This is bull-$h!t of the highest order! They would have stopped if Hinch told them to? Are you kidding me? These are not naive little kids who needed proper guidance. These are grown men, most of them millionaires, who knew what they did was wrong and didn't care. Those are the words of adults throwing their manager under the bus to make themselves look more sympathetic.
Assessing discipline of players for this type of conduct is both difficult and impractical. It is difficult because virtually all of the Astros’ players had some involvement or knowledge of the scheme, and I am not in a position based on the investigative record to determine with any degree of certainty every player who should be held accountable, or their relative degree of culpability. It is impractical given the large number of players involved, and the fact that many of those players now play for other Clubs.
- I get the assertion that it difficult to determine the level of involvement for each individual player, but to let them go scott-free pretty much makes this entire investigation nothing more than basic lip service.

- I'm not saying the whole team should have been suspended, but for the love of the game, they should have done something!

- I personally thought that MLB should have made the players pay back their playoff shares. The loss of money would be really insignificant to them personally, but it would have been a symbolic gesture that their actions had consequences.

- Of course, Commissioner Manfred is too much of a coward to do such a thing. He'd rather avoid a fight with the Player's Union than actually punish the guilty participants.
Cora was involved in developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit signs. Cora participated in both schemes, and through his active participation, implicitly condoned the players’ conduct.
- His involvement here and the fact he's the common denominator between both the Astros and Red Sox investigations means that he can kiss his career in baseball goodbye. He'll never work for an MLB team again. That being said, I'm willing to bet he ends up as a TV analysis somewhere.

- I'm not condoning what he did, but I can't help but think he's being made the scapegoat here. Again, there were other coaches and personnel involved, and I have trouble believing that he and he alone was the only non-player that willingly participated.

- I genuinely feel sorry for the guy. He gave every indication that he was a smart and likable guy who could have had a legitimately bright managerial career. I'll always be impressed by the way he used his hiring as Red Sox manager to provide aid to his devastated home country of Puerto Rico.
The Club will forfeit its regular first and second round selections in the 2020 and 2021 First-Year Player Drafts.
- This seems harsh but fair to me.  Then again, if the Red Sox receive a similar punishment I'll be pissed. Their farm system is weak as it is, and that would really hurt.
The Club will pay to my office a fine of $5 million, which is the highest allowable fine under the Major League Constitution.
- Chump change. These teams are worth hundreds of millions. Change the Constitution and double it at least!
Jeff Luhnow shall be suspended without pay...
A.J. Hinch shall be suspended without pay...
- Again, the people who broke the rules (except Cora) get no punishment whatsoever, while these two guy lose their jobs because they didn't stop it.

- The Astros owner, Jim Crane, of course fired them on the spot because he wants us to believe that he holds his team to some level of integrity. Will the staff in the replay room keep their jobs? The other coaches? Will he release any players from their contracts? Dozens upon dozens of people have their hands dirty here, and unless Crane acts accordingly his hands become just as dirty.

Other Thoughts:

- All this talk about taking away the Astros' World Championship can just stop. It will never happen, and it shouldn't. The World Championship belongs to the fans and the city of Houston as much as it does the players. Don't forget that city suffered tremendously in 2017 with all the flooding, and that Championship was a much needed spiritual lift. Houston Strong means more than all this.

- All of these other players talking about feeling cheated and doing things the right way can get off their high horses. Maybe they personally don't cheat, but they sure as hell won't complain if someone else does something on their team. Remember, Mike Fiers's admission was an exception, not the norm. It's one of those unwritten rules, so don't expect me to believe these guys are saints.

- The Yankees in particular should remember that couldn't score more than 1 run in any of the 4 games they lost in the 2017 ALCS. They didn't lose because of a trash can, they lost because their bats went cold.

- The Red Sox are next, and they'll be punished too, which again will suck. It puts a dark cloud over an exciting and memorable season. I'm curious to see how involved this investigation gets.

- Since Manfred has already established that he'll only punish the manager and GM, it'll be interesting to see if Dave Dombrowski gets suspended despite the fact he is no longer associated with the Red Sox.

- AJ Hinch got suspended, but it's obvious he was not a primary culprit. He's still a smart baseball manager, and it's not unreasonable to expect that he will grow from this. Would the Red Sox be crazy enough to go with an interim manager this year and then bring on Hinch after his suspension ends? Hmmm...

- After the Red Sox, will it be over? It better not be. During the investigation, at least 8 other teams were named for doing the same "video surveillance".  Other ballplayers are saying the same thing. They all need to be dealt with accordingly as well. To be fair, MLB should do a thorough investigation of all 30 teams. You never know, right?

- Is it time for actual baseball yet?


  1. Very well said. I was talking about this to my wife this morning and she said if they all cheated why don't they all get fired. I chuckled then thought about it. As a huge Boston fan this is scary. I thought about the Chicago White Sox scandal. If I remember correctly Shoeless Joe Jackson said he wasn't in on it. I am not sure if he received any money, but I think he had a good post season. I understand throwing a world series is different, but can you imagine if the WHOLE team of the Astros and the Red Sox got kicked out of baseball. Talk about making a statement.
    Thanks for your blog.

    1. If I recall correctly, Jackson still took the money, which was the main reason for his banishment.

  2. It's sad all the way around. There should be SEVERE punishment for the players/team. I mean severe. Suspend them all for 2 years! No matter what team they now play for. That or kick them out of the game, ban them. As for the lame ass Commissioner, MLB itself is probably the most guilty as they should have know that in this day and age with tech the way it is, it should have been prevented. Post a "league" person in every dugout, clubhouse etc. Seems kind of simple.

    1. I agree - The Commissioner and MLB as a whole are guilty of complacency with this. As I read about how close the replay rooms were to the dugouts, and how any uniformed staff can just enter at will, it defied basic logic that no security measures were put in place until the 2018 postseason. This is very similar to Selig turning a blind eye on PED usage - they didn't care to do anything until public outcry.

  3. You show a very heavy bias in your comments against the Astros but favour the Red Sox who already have "cheating"in their recent past. This bias takes away from the few good points you made, the fact that the championship should not be taken away. In every organization, sports or business, it starts with the leadership. In this case we speak of the GM and Mgr. Yes it could be taken to the next level in all of the coaches but they chose to stop at the coach who pretty much led the infraction. The Commish could have punished further down, adn from your bias, I think you would have wanted to see the bat boy hung, but he had previously made it clear that the responsibility of any infraction against the rules of baseball would be held at the management level. He kept his word. Having said this, I hope the Red Sox as an organization are banned from baseball for 5 years.

    1. Perhaps it's because the Astros investigation is complete and the Red Sox portion is still ongoing? It's obvious you're reading the thoughts of a Red Sox fan, and any fan of any team would be pissed if their team cheated/got punished. If you want to read an unbiased opinion, find a Royals blog.

      Also, your comment about having an entire franchised banned from a league is ridiculous and shows your anti-Red Sox bias. The White Sox weren't disbanded after 1920, ans these Sox aren't going anywhere either.

    2. I am biased towards my favorite team, no questions there. That's one of the characteristics of fandom, isn't it? Like Chris said, we don't have the full report on the Red Sox investigation yet. Who knows how bad it's going to get? Definitely not you or me. These random thoughts came as I was reading the report on the Astros - of course they are going to be the main focus! As a Red Sox fan it bothers me that my team would stoop to such things. It tarnishes what was for me a very enjoyable season that was fun to watch unfold. I don't want cheating on my team, your team, or any team. I want the guilty parties made accountable. If that means punishment for Mookie or JD or whichever players that were involved, so be it. Learn the lesson and move forward. You seem to disagree with this opinion in regards to the Astros team, which I respect. If you feel holding the GM and Manager as the only accountable parties is sufficient, then you'll also feel suspending Cora and Dombrowski for the Red Sox infraction is equally just as well. It makes no sense suggesting I want to hang the bat boy and then stating you want to ban an entire organization. If you feel the Astros' punishment was fair and just then expect the Red Sox to be punished along similar lines. Regardless of how all of this shakes out, the clubhouse culture across the Majors has to change, and it has to start with the players.