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Perspectives on the Cheating Scandal – January 25, 2020

You might think that late January means no Yankees news, but that would not be true, and there’s a lot to talk about, but for today, I still need to discuss the cheating scandal. I’ll have a Yankees specific Perspectives post tomorrow at 4:00 p.m.

More and more I find it abhorrent that the players involved in the Astros cheating scandal won’t face any discipline from Major League Baseball. MLB messed this up – big time. BIG TIME. The message the league sent is that the managers and executives that were involved are culpable, but that the players, in a player-driven program to cheat, are not. This is absurd and quite troubling. It makes no sense. It hurts the game – tremendously. This decision by MLB does nothing, let me be very clear, NOTHING, at all, and in any way, to discourage a player from cheating. At all. The message, in fact, is to cheat. Baseball has told the players that if they cheat and if they get caught that someone else will face the consequences. This is wrong, it’s bad, and it hurts the game. It hurts the game tremendously. I have written a number of times that the legitimacy of the game is at now stake and it is. By letting the players off, without any consequences, the commissioner and his advisers have done the game tremendous harm. It is wrong – and bad for the game. It’s, in fact, terrible for the game. Major League Baseball has done nothing, at all, to restore any confidence in the game or to hold players responsible, in any way, for cheating. It’s a bad look. This was handled very poorly.

Quick question – what is the common thread between the outrage and concerns with the 1919 Black Sox, Pete Rose, and steroids? Yes. Cheating. Those things all struck at the integrity of the game. They forced people to question the game’s very authenticity. This new cheating scandal does the exact same thing. The exact same thing. At least one World Series is now forever in question. An MVP is in question. The very essence of what the sport celebrates is now in question. Except, in this situation, there has been no punishment or consequences for the perpetrators who have caused this scandal and this mark on the game.

Since baseball failed in it’s most critical duty in making sure that players who break the rules face consequences for their actions, it will now be up to the other teams to raise the stakes against those Astros players – most of whom haven’t even apologized. The game will always police itself. Watch for more Astros players being thrown at, more rough slides, more on-field fights, and such. The players will police the game, but it’ll be through other measures. And the potential for this to get ugly is very present and very real.

Rather than addressing the situation firmly, Major League Baseball punted. Rather than facing all the tough decisions with the players and with the Players’ Union, baseball passed the buck. This will not make the scandal go away. It will keep it forefront in many people’s minds. It will also encourage other players to find new ways to cheat. This will continue to damage the game.

Some reports say that the Commissioner was afraid to challenge the Players’ Union. If that’s true that’s also a big shame. The union represents all the players, not just the Astros. It represents the players who lost to the team that cheated. It would have been a bad look, a horrible look, for the MLBPA to back the Astros players in this. That would have hurt, rather than strengthened, the player’s association. They should have been brought in from the start as partners to address this whole scandal.

Be prepared for a situation this season when rival pitcher is suspended for throwing at an Astros player who previously cheated. The acknowledged cheater will again get off the hook while the pitcher trying to send a message and enforce the rules in the only way players can, since baseball itself failed in assigning a consequence, will be suspended.

Fans, too, I am sure will make this a very unpleasant year for those players. People of integrity step up and admit their mistakes and failings. The fact that the Astros players have not stepped up is telling – and it saddens me and puts a stain on the game. These players can grow from this, but in the absence of any remorse, I am afraid the fans across baseball will remind them of the stain they put on the game – daily. It will become wearing on the players to hear the constant boos. I sense that baseball will become no fun for the Astros in 2020. Again, instead of doing the right thing and moving forward, the lack of consequences and remorse will make this scandal continue much longer than it might have. By failing to do the right thing, baseball will keep this scandal at the forefront all season long.

In the end, cheaters never win. The players will learn this through their daily lives during the 2020 season and beyond through the responses from fans, the booing, the signs held up in the stadiums, the nicknames they’ll now own, the questions from the press, and the fact that the stain on their victories and accomplishments will always be there. Their awards and championships will always be in question. Always. This will stay with the players when their (possible) Hall-of-Fame chances are brought up years after they retire. They didn’t just stain the game, they stained themselves. And that won’t go away. Had they served a consequence and had they apologized from the start, it probably would have gone away. Instead the stain will be with them forever. They will learn that it wasn’t worth it. But that is a long life lesson that they’ll only understand in reflection many years from now when they escape the immediacy of the moment. They’ll understand better when their grandkids say, “Why did you cheat Grandpa?”

Here’s a thought. How about the new manager of the Astros, along with the new GM, sets the new standard for the franchise? What if they state that they are going to suspend the players involved themselves as a franchise as a way to make a clear statement to the sport that what the players did was unacceptable and wrong. Wouldn’t that be powerful? Just like the Red Sox and Mets moved on from their managers by taking matters into their own hands, what if the Astros did the same with their players? They should. Absolutely. The team can say, “We cannot move on until we accept responsibility for what we did. We will. We understand that our team’s reputation is on the line as are the reputations of our players. We’re going to do the right thing.” By not challenging this and by stating remorse for their actions, the players could also step up. Imagine that. (It won’t happen, but imagine that!)


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