BY BRADEN HOLECEK
“Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater.” “Caught red-handed.”
The baseball world was appalled by the shocking revelations of the Houston Astros cheating scandal. Not only were they blatantly caught committing the act, but the team was committing a litany of penalties.
What actual penalties were being committed? Other MLB teams had a belief that the Astros were stealing signs. But most teams can pick up opposing signs right? This was taken to a whole other level, though.
Former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers came out to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich that the team had used a video camera to film footage of the opposing catcher’s signs to the pitchers. And that’s not all. Houston team staff and personnel would signal what pitch would be coming to their own batter against the opposing team.
How would they do this? Someone in the Astros dugout would bang on a trashcan, depending on the pitch. Some people in the public even went back and pulled up some videos of these instances.
Here is a breakdown of the trash can banging, where one fan broke it down: https://twitter.com/Jomboy_/status/1194348775965437952?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>November
This was significant also, because it took place back in 2017 when the Houston Astros won the World Series.
Major League Baseball held their own investigation. The findings were pinpointed by the office and they laid out substantial penalties. As a result, manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were both relieved of their duties and suspended for the entire 2020 season. In addition, the team was fined $5 million and they had to forfeit some future draft picks.
Despite all of that, the players did not receive any punishments. Why? They were given immunity by MLB in exchange for their cooperation during the investigation. This led to an uproar with other opposing MLB players.
For example, Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers believes that the player’s receiving immunity was “weak.” Here’s a full quote of Bellinger’s comments: https://twitter.com/BlakeHarrisTBLA/status/1228378155720695808
After Bellinger’s comments, a few baseball fans answered some questions surrounding this Astros cheating scandal.
“I think the Astros players should’ve received a harsher punishment regardless of who was on board in the scheme or not,” Kayla Morton said.
Meanwhile, big-time baseball aficionado Tyler Kading said Major League Baseball did what they could regarding punishment.
“I understand the realities of the situation. Without giving the players immunity, no one gets punished for the most egregious cheating scandal in baseball history,” Kading said. “Rob Manfred (the MLB commissioner) wasn’t grandstanding, that’s the reality of it. So it wasn’t really possible for them to get harsher punishments.”
Bransen Schulte thinks the players are getting out of the worst punishment while managers are seeing harsher penalties.
“Yes, I definitely think the players should have received more punishment,” Schulte said. “The league seemed to only take it out on the managers and coaches.”
Morton, however, feels as tho it should be management who gets the worst of the punishment.
“The manager and general manager should have had the harsher punishments, not the players,” Morton said.
Kading feels as though the whole cheating scandal could have been put to a stop by Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, and his lack of action is the most damning.
“Jeff Luhnow should have been banned for life,” Kading said. “Realistically, he was the one in charge of all of the players and could have put a stop to everything before it started. So he didn’t get a harsh enough punishment. He should have received the harshest.”
Schulte feels that not every player was involved the same amount, if at all, and their individual punishments should be based on their involvement.
“I don’t think they should have received the worst of the punishments,” Schulte said. “Especially since we have no way of knowing how involved each player was in the entirety of the scandal.”
With many opposing MLB players calling for the Astros’ 2017 championship to be stripped, Morton agrees.
“I think they should be stripped of the championship,” she said. “If the sports world is going to strip Lance Armstrong of his Tour de France wins because he was using meds to get through cancer then this is asinine.”
However, Kading feels as tho the MLB needs to go further than stripping the title, and levy a punishment that is more impactful.
“Stripping the title is a toothless punishment. They won the World Series, that’s never going to go away,” Kading said. “Reggie Bush got stripped of the Heisman Trophy in 2005, but if you ask people, who won the Heisman in 2005? Reggie Bush. That’s exactly what would happen if they vacated the 2017 title. They need harsher punishments that actually matter, which stripping the title would not.”
Schulte feels as tho the entire organization needs to be made example of.
“Yeah I completely agree that the entire organization should be stripped of their World Series, especially considering this is the first time something like this has happened,” Schulte said. “I think the league needs to make an example of the Astros to discourage any further cheating.”
Not all Astros players were involved with the scandal according to statements from the players; however, it can be difficult to weed out who was or was not involved.
“They don’t have to participate to know it’s going on and to do something about it,” Morton said. “If Jose Altuve didn’t want to be a part of it, he should’ve had no problem reporting it.”
Kading believes that some players didn’t want to be a part of the cheating scheme, citing their tendencies at the plate as reason not to participate.
“You can look at the data, Jose Altuve used the scheme less than almost everyone else,” Kading said. “Hitters are creatures of habit, hearing that outside noise may mess with you at the plate, so it is perfectly believable that some players didn’t want to be a part of the scheme. They don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt when they say that, though.”
Schulte would like to be optimistic that some players weren’t involved, but finds it hard to believe that there were Astros players who didn’t know what was going on or participate.
“I would like to think some players weren’t involved. But, I don’t think anyone who batted for the team can say they weren’t involved,” Schulte said. “There’s too much evidence that what was going on was helping everyone at the plate. As for Altuve, I think he was for sure in on the scandal, especially after rewatching the video of him hitting his homer and telling the guys not to rip his jersey. I’m not quite sure how Mike Trout put it, but he said something along the lines of ‘if that’s me hitting that home run, I’m letting them rip my jersey.’’’
While the scandal reigns supreme over baseball and into the beginning of Spring Training, many fans are still interested in seeing how the season plays out, including Morton.
“The interest won’t change. Just more people will want to see the Astros lose,” Morton said. “Mike Fiers is a hero.”
Kading agrees, saying his life will be baseball 24/7 no matter what.
“I think it’s a fantastic thing for baseball though, in the long run, that people seem to care about this,” Kading said. “Baseball is the forefront of the conversation now in the sports world. That’s good.”
Teams are in the midst of spring training preparing for Opening Day on March 26th. However, the Astros are feeling the wrath of teams and player across the league during spring ball, as there have already been seven Astros players hit by pitches through five spring training games. Time will tell if retaliation will continue into the 2020 season.