The year is 2017. The MLB saw The New York Yankees lose a hard-fought 7 game American League Championship Series to the Houston Astros. The Yankees fell just one game shy of reaching their first World Series of the decade. The Astros then moved on to best the National League Champion Los Angeles Dodgers in a World Series game 7. Thus, capturing their first Championship in franchise history.
Fast forward one year to 2018. The Yankees and Dodgers were both back in the playoffs. This time, the Yanks faced the Boston Red Sox in the American League Divisional Series. The Yankees lost the series 3-1, and the Red Sox advanced to play the Astros in the ALCS. The Dodgers would once again make it to the October classic. This time they squared off against the Red Sox. The Sox won the series in 5 games. The Dodger’s Championship dreams had been shattered for a second straight year.
On January 13th 2020, Major League Baseball handed down the Astros’ punishment for using technology to steal signs during the 2017 season, including the playoffs. In a Twitter post the MLB announced that Houston Astros’ General Manager Jeff Luhnow and team Manager AJ Hinch will be suspended for the 2020 season without pay.
Statement regarding the Astros. https://t.co/xvuj6zOK9x
— MLB (@MLB) January 13, 2020
Immediately following the punishment handed down by the MLB, the Houston Astros held a press conference where Jim Crane made the announcement that General Manager Jeff Luhnow and team Manager A..J. Hinch have been fired, per a CBS News story. Additional penalties include a $5MM fine and loss of draft picks.
Cheating can affect the outcome of a game, a series, and even a season. Twenty-eight other teams had to battle against an unfair advantage. Twice teams that cheated, would eventually win the World Series. It has not been proven that the Red Sox cheated in the 2018 postseason. But they did cheat in the regular season.
While it has been proven the Astros cheated during home games in 2017 they did have a 2-2 record in Los Angeles during the World Series. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that if the Astros and Red Sox didn’t cheat, that the Yankees or Dodgers would’ve won the World Series.
The fact is we will be stuck with many questions long after punishments are completed. What if Aaron Judge had won the 2017 MVP instead of Jose Altuve? What if the Astros didn’t have home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs in 2017 or if the Red Sox didn’t cheat during home games in 2018? We will never know for sure what would have happened. Los Angeles and New York will never get those two seasons back.
Cheating scandals have ripple effects. They are felt by the league, the players and the fans, often for generations. The MLB could feel these effects where it hurts the most in their bank account. It took Major League Baseball years to try and recover from the steroid scandal and in some ways, it hasn’t. Players feel the effects as well. Judge recently avoided arbitration with a 1yr/$8MM dollar deal with the Yankees as per a New York Post article by Jake Nisse. If he had an MVP or a World Series Championship under his belt, maybe he gets $15MM. Again, we will never know.
Overall interest in the sport is down, especially with children. The league has tried everything to get butts in the seats and television ratings up. Everything from pace of game rule changes, to new stadiums, and even expanding into Europe.
These events can cause fans to lose faith. Whether it’s a child who never picks up a bat again because their favorite team cheated, or fans believing the fix is in. The MLB and these two organizations will have to earn back their fan’s trust. Baseball is a special game. It deserves respect. The game’s integrity has been sullied by the very people lucky enough to play it. Only time will tell the full extent of the damage done to America’s pastime. As with the Black Sox of 1919 and the widespread steroid use, the sign-stealing scandal will forever taint the Astros’ and Red Sox’s Championships.
MLB’s investigation into the Red Sox organization is ongoing. Alex Cora, stands accused of being integral in the scandal. It is uncertain what new details will come out after the conclusion of this investigation, or what the punishment will be. It is fair to reason that Cora’s punishment could be more severe than that of A.J. Hinch. This could be due to his alleged involvement in both the Astros and Red Sox cheating schemes.
As far as the league is concerned, there is one thing we know for sure. Baseball will still be here. There will be a 2020 season. We will see change and even growth. So continue to support your team. Cheer on your favorite player. While there is work to be done to repair the damage following this scandal, Spring Training begins in less than a month. With Spring, comes rebirth. All of the young superstars, web gems and bat flips will be back. The future can still be bright for Major League Baseball.