Evaluating the Houston Astros’ Punishment for Sign-Stealing Scandal
(Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports)
On Monday, Major League Baseball announced their punishments for the Houston Astros for the sign-stealing scandal. Did MLB get the consquences right? Let’s examine the punishment itself.
After finding that the Astros cheated by using a camera-based system to steal signs in 2017 and part of 2018, MLB suspended Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for the 2020 season. Luhnow and Hinch were then fired by Astros owner Jim Crane. Houston also lost their first- and second-round draft picks for the 2020 and 2021 drafts. Finally, commissioner Rob Manfred fined Houston a record $5 million, the biggest fine allowed under the MLB constitution.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, multiple ownership-level sources said that dissatisfaction with the penalties came after a conference call with Manfred. Someone familiar with the call told ESPN that “the impression was that the penalty for complaining would be more than Houston got.”
For the most part, Manfred and MLB got the punishment right. The part that they didn’t get right was not punishing players for their involvement in the scandal. The players should have been punished because they were the ones cheating, or involved in the cheating. So, why did the players not get punished? According to the league’s report, Manfred had made a decision in Sept. 2017 that he would hold a team’s general manager and manager accountable for this kind of misconduct. Manfred says that assessing discipline for players for this kind of conduct in difficult and impractical.
Former player Pete Rose disagrees and believes that the players should be punished.
“So, they fire the GM, they fire the manager, and [MLB] probably is going to get [Red Sox manager] Alex Cora, who was the bench coach at the time,” Rose told Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media. “But what about the players who were behind this and taking the knowledge? Should they get off scot-free? Don’t you have to do something to the players who were accepting the stolen signs? Nothing’s been done. Is that fair?”
Rose is right. It isn’t fair that management got punished and not the players. Not punishing the players is like someone getting away with robbing a bank or murder. The players were cheating and should be punished for it.
Another thing that Manfred didn’t do was take away the Astros’ 2017 World Series title. That championship is now tainted and has an asterisk next to it because the Astros won it by cheating.
So, why wasn’t their title taken away? Because it would cause a fight with the players union.
Should MLB have taken the 2017 title away? The answer is probably yes. Teams that win championships should win it legitimately; not by cheating. The Astros’ title should have been taken away because they didn’t earn it because they cheated.
“It will scare employees of MLB teams from cheating, at least for a while, and the man who owns the team gets to enjoy his ring,” one league staffer told Passan in regards to the punishment. “He gets off lightly and can start with a clean slate.”
That’s why the Astros’ 2017 title should have been taken away. The Astros shouldn’t be able to enjoy their World Series rings because they didn’t win them fairly.
MLB gets a B-grade for the punishment that the Astros were given for the sign-stealing scandal. They got most of the punishment right but they could and should have done more.