Why the Houston Astros should be stripped of their 2017 title
By Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
Major League Baseballâs kicking of the groin to the Houston Astros organization, for exposing the wildest and most controversial form of sign stealing, deserved more backlash.
âBut isnât stealing signing an old-school method that will never go away?â
Sure, but setting up a camera that was set on the catcherâs hand from centre field, that transmitted a live-feed to a monitor inside the home teamâs clubhouse, before eventually being deciphered by a team employee and having it communicated to the players on the field via banging a trash can in a suspicious rhythmic fashionâ¦ isnât ok.
MLB commissioner Rob Manferd does deserve credit for laying the law on the 2017 World Series champions â including a $5-million dollar fine to the franchise owner, having both their first and second round draft picks for 2020 and 2021 taken away, firing both the manager and general manager of the team and banning their former assistant manager â and allowing for the punishment to forever taint whatever glory (and gloating) the Astros enjoyed.
Finding a pitcherâs tell or tipping pitches is a natural advantage within the game of baseball. Just like running a 6â6â forward line-up in basketball to constantly post up a fire-hydrant sized point guard, or the opposite (See: Golden State running their famous âdeath-lineupâ to abuse their sharpshooting prowess over less talented teams).
Or just like how football coaches who can read lips and decipher play-calls from the other side of the field, are unfair advantages.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (or as some call him, Beli-cheat) has a resume full of incidents where his team were not only caught cheating to gain an advantage off the field, but tried to use technology to do so.
Remember spygate? The time in 2007 when the Patriots flat out filmed an oppositionâs practise? Belichickâs punishment was a NFL-record fine of $500,000. Or deflategate? When just one game after being accused of using illegal plays and formations in 2015, the Patriots were exposed for deflating footballs, making them easier to throw and catch, with no deterrent put in place.
Was the MLBâs solution strong enough? No. As mentioned, it is a severe penalty but the most important action to really put the nail in the coffin was missed.
Why? Well, a $5-million dollar fine to a sports owner is chump change even if it is the max the MLB can fine an owner for. Two draft picks will not bear fruit for at least three to four years with the way developing prospects is nowadays. Firing the GM who was the mastermind and the head coach who was exposed to knowing about it almost seems like a formality.
So what is the answer?
Strip the title away. Donât give the 2017 World Series to either the L.A. Dodgers or the New York Yankees. But putting an asterisk next to the Houston Astros (a.k.a. the Asterisks) doesnât justify ruining career of pitchers who were sent down to the minors.
In a clip breakdown featuring the Sept. 22 game against the Chicago White Sox, Youtuber JomBoy Media shows how obvious the signalling is. The breakdown proved that a fastball signal didnât bring out any noise from the dugouts. But the second a catcher called for a change-up, one mysterious bang can be heard from the Astros dugout. A breaking ball promoted two bangs back-to-back. Itâs too easy to notice.
And the White Sox pitcher picked up on it.
Members of the Astros, who were in the dugout that game, recall nearly soiling themselves at the thought that someone had finally caught on. So they stopped.
The same soldiers who commit war crimes are fine doing what they do in what they believe until the music stops. The same way criminals are only sorry when they get caught.
This chapter in MLB history grew a tainted form of gloating. The Astros were on top of the world and made everyone know it. All the while, livelihoods, history and most importantly careers, were jeopardized on the other side of this elaborate cheating scheme.
Vacate the 2017 World Series title.