Given Tehachapi’s proximity to Los Angeles and the large following of Dodgers faithful in the area, I guess the Major League Baseball and Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal constitutes a local issue. I know the Dodgers’ loss in the 2017 World Series, won by the now-tainted Houston Astros (or Houston Asterisks as they’re becoming widely-known), is the sore subject for all of baseball, especially those on the Dodgers’ side of the coin.
There is no mistaking it: Based on MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s report that the Dodgers got a raw deal in 2017, and possibly 2018 when Alex Cora, a mastermind of the electronic sign-stealing scandal was the Red Sox manager, in 2017 he was the Houston bench coach. So there’s a possibility the Dodgers were victimized twice in this whole ordeal. Not fair in the least, but unfortunately, there is no perfect way to rectify the situation that would satisfy all parties.
First, for the record, I don’t have an issue with most sign stealing in baseball. It’s been going on since the beginning of the game, well, not quite the beginning because back then pitchers were actually trying to allow the batters to hit the ball, but that’s a small nuance.
In the common-era of the game, a lazy catcher being caught not switching his signs or witnessing a pitcher tip his pitches with some sort of bodily twitch is just part of the game. Catchers, teams and coaches regularly change signs because sometimes within the parameters of the game they’re picked up on. Hence the long series of indicators and silly signs from the third base coaches’ box. It’s a big game within the game.
What we understand the Astros did was far outside of those parameters; cameras, monitors, electronic devices and so on went well outside of the gray area and broke some very clear rules. Now there’s talk of electrodes under players’ uniforms that allegedly transmitted pitches in last year’s American League playoffs. No level of espionage would surprise me at this point.
Major League Baseball acted, but certainly not harshly enough or to the level most fans expected. Some managers and general managers paid a small price. The Astros lost some draft picks and must pay a laughable $5 million fine. Meanwhile, the players for the most part have been unscathed and claim “it will all be OK this season.” Not exactly owning up to their transgressions. Meanwhile, the Dodgers, their fans and several other fans of baseball pay the real price. But what can really be done?
The untrained critic would advocate that MLB strip the Astros of the 2017 World Series title and give it to the Dodgers. While this sounds great in a utopian world where everything is “fair,” we know that just won’t happen. I believe Houston shouldn’t keep the title but there’s a reason NASCAR doesn’t award races to the second-place drivers after the winner fails a post race tech inspection. It’s the same reason the NCAA strips titles but never awards them to the runner-up. It cheapens the moment even more than the cheating scandal itself.
Sports organizations want fans to see it “won on the field of competition,” not leaving the stadium or arena wondering if this title might be overturned in a scandal or court battle down the road.
The International Olympic Committee does occasionally strip a medalist who later fails a drug test and awards the medals down the line. Even then the runner-up might have a nice new medal that was shipped in the mail, but the damage was done. They were still void of the moment at the Games, they still sat lower on the podium and listened to someone else’s anthem. Sure it might feel like justice was done, but in the end it’s a consolation prize.
There will be nothing else done to the Astros. However, baseball has a long history of “dealing its own justice.” For example, some of the records from the “Steroid era” still stand, but there’s not a chance that any of those players end up in the Hall of Fame. The fans can certainly make the Astros pay this season by making their road games as miserable as possible, while I think the MLB front office should turn a blind eye to pitchers who feel like conspirators like Jose Altuve or Alex Bregman deserve to wear more fastballs in the ribs than over the strike zone this season.
Let the pitchers, players and fans handle the justice. Nothing dangerous, of course. Just enough to force them to admit they were wrong and apologize to the sanctity of baseball, and the fan base they harmed. Then when their careers are over, they too are void of any Hall of Fame honors by the baseball writer’s association.
It’s on the front office to let the justice be imposed by others, since it’s clear they certainly didn’t listen to the fans.
That’s not uncommon by the MLB brass, but continually damaging to a once-great game that can never seem to get out of its own way.
Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are his own.