News has been spreading the last few days around the Major League Baseball world that the Houston Astros cheated in 2017, and possibly beyond. This supposed cheating involved sign stealing, and relaying it to Astros batters during home games, giving them an unfair advantage.
Signs from the catchers were caught from live feeds of the game, and then someone either in the outfield bullpen would display a hand signal for certain pitches, or that information would be relayed into the dugout for a certain person to make a specific noise before a pitch, again signaling what that pitch would be.
Early in the 2017 season, at least two uniformed Astros got together to start the process. One was a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources; another was a coach who wanted to help. They were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good.
News has surfaced today of those names that allegedly helped in the enabling process are now Red Sox manager Alex Cora and now New York Mets manger Carlos Beltran. Cora was a bench coach with the Astros, and Beltrán a player who retired right after their World Series win. Along with Astros manager A.J. Hinch, Cora had no comment on the allegations. For his part, Beltrán told The Athletic, “We took a lot of pride studying pitchers in the computer—that is the only technology that I use and I understand. It was fun seeing guys get to the ballpark to look for little details.”
The results of this investigation could have far reaching consequences.Should MLB go far, managers of three major league teams could be without managers for a length of time. The Astros could see international signing money taken away, or draft picks, or any number of penalties that would have implications on the team for years to come.
MLB should think long and hard about the appropriate retribution. Too light a sentence displays a cavalier attitude and would allow other teams to think they too could get away with something like that. More than just stealing signs when someone is on second base, this was a systematic plan to use technology to give them an unfair advantage. It goes beyond simple in-game strategy and into full on cheating. It not only changes the game for players and fans, but also then messes with the gambling world, people who would be none-to happy to see their money go in a different direction than what they intended.
Dodger fans’ reactions to this run the gamut from ‘who cares, it’s all over’, to ‘give the Dodgers the trophy now!’ Of course one cannot go back in time and change things, and a World Series title retroactively bestowed on the Dodgers isn’t how any player would like to have a ring, regardless of whether that is actually an option or not.
Of course the Dodgers are still responsible for their own play, and blew Game 2 at home when the Astros were not using this information to their advantage. The most disheartening this to me is where Clayton Kershaw is concerned. Long, and rightly criticized for his postseason production, Kershaw had about a good an outing in Game 1 as a starter could possibly have. He also was nails in relief of Yu Darvish in Game 7, going four scoreless innings, giving him a total of one earned run in 11.1 innings at Dodgers Stadium. Game 5 however, as we know, was a totally different story. He allowed six earned runs in just 4.2 innings.
Were the Astros hijinx to blame for Kershaw’s bad outing? Did whatever info the Astros gather lead them to be able to tee off on Darvish in Game 7? If they didn’t employ the info they have would 2017 have ended differently?
We will never know all the answers. It wouldn’t change the outcome even if we did. All we can do as Dodger fans, and more importantly baseball fans, is hope that MLB does the right thing and hands down appropriate punishment. As they have been lax with various other punishments, though, I can’t say I’ll be holding my breath.