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The Tuesday Discussion: The Astros, Cheating, and Consequences

We asked our writers:

If it is proven that the Astros have been illegally stealing signs,

what should the consequences from Major League Baseball be?

Here are their responses:

Michael Saffer – If the claims of cheating are founded, I would strip the Astros of their 2017 World Series title. Banners and exhibits would be removed from the stadium and the HOF. I would state in a press release that MLB does not recognize a World Series champion for the 2017 season.

Ed Botti – Stealing signs has been a part of Baseball from the beginning of the sport. If a player or coach is smart enough and skilled enough to figure the signals out, its fair game. However using technology to gain an inequitable advantage, as is alleged, is a completely different level; it advances the skill from gamesmanship to outright cheating.

What makes the question of what the penalty should be more challenging, is the timing of this matter. In 2019 the league installed new rules on the use of technology during the games, such as non-network cameras. The alleged cheating episodes and all the footage we have seen, supposedly took place in 2017, two years before the new rules. No doubt that will become an issue when deciding potential penalties.

Video footage can be manipulated. I am not saying it was or wasn’t. However, to me, more telling was what Buck Showalter said last week on the Michael Kay Show regarding how Astro players never flinched or buckled at the breaking balls during these clips; alluding to them knowing which pitch was coming. Great point by Buck! Nonetheless, if the League wants to be consistent with its protection of the integrity of the game, as they did with Pete Rose, they need to send a strong message now, as technology continues to grow within the sport.

Commissioner Rob Manfred should fine the Astros, issue suspensions (AJ Hinch, Jeff Luhnow), or even lifetime bans (he’s done it before), forfeit some or all of the Astros draft picks for 3 years, and reduce or eliminate their international signing bonus pool money for 3 years.

Extreme? Yes. But if they did what was alleged, they deserve it.

Although Chapman’s slider was a terrible pitch, it really makes me wonder about that expression on his face as the ball cleared the fence.

The cruelest part to me is not only did the Astros steal signs, but now it seems they stole the pride and enjoyment away from the innocent fans, young and old in Houston, who now have a tainted championship; a perception that isn’t going away. With the level of talent on that team, it’s sad.

One question I have is, who decides on the punishment of juicing the balls in 2019?

Derek McAdam – The answer to the Astros stealing signs is simple. Fans would love to say that the only solution is to vacate the 2017 World Series win. This is not the NCAA and will simply not happen. Rob Manfred and his associates need to come up with a plan that hits the Astros hard. The ideal best way to do this is to fine the top executives and coaches. This is only about 25% of the damage. The remaining 75% should be first round picks given up for the next two or three seasons. It is similar to what the National Football League did to the New England Patriots in 2016 as a result of “Deflategate.” The only difference between the two is that the Astros should be penalized much harder than the Patriots, especially for repeated offenses.

Paul Semendinger – As I wrote the other day, I believe that the sign stealing strikes at the very core of the integrity of baseball. For a sport, any sport, to thrive, the games have to be legitimate. If the Astros were stealing signs, they were robbing baseball of its legitimacy. That cannot be tolerated. I believe the consequences have to be of such magnitude that teams do not try this again.

I suggest that the manager would have to be suspended for at least a year, maybe two. All members of the coaching staff and any players who knew and/or participated would also have to be suspended. If that means that managers of other teams (Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran) would also be suspended, so be it. If they were part of the sign stealing, they must face the consequences.

The Astros as an organization should also get a penalty. That would include some sorts of fines and losses of draft picks.

Finally, I think that the players involved should also face a consequence of sorts. Cheating is cheating, this is no different than performance enhancing drugs. Knowing what pitch is coming is just a different way to enhance one’s performance.

If true, the Astros cheated baseball. They cheated the cities of the teams they defeated in their division and in the post season(s). They cheated the fan bases. They cheated other players. The cheated the sport. They robbed it of its integrity and legitimacy.

Baseball needs to come down hard, just like they do for players who bet on games and players caught using performance enhancing drugs.

Frankie Mandile – When the Red Sox were found to have been stealing signs with the help of an Apple Watch in a series against the Yankees in 2017, MLB handed down an undisclosed fine and that was the end of it. But the Astros case appears far more elaborate and extensive than that of the Red Sox. If this proves to be true, I believe they should have to forfeit draft picks next season and international bonus pool money. If a mastermind behind the operation is not discovered, I would be hesitant to fire or fine individual Astros personnel.

Ethan Semendinger – If the investigation from Major League Baseball ends up confirming that the Houston Astros were using illegal means for stealing signs, then I think the consequences are going to be, and should be, severe.

A few years back the Atlanta Braves found themselves in deep water with the MLB for violating international signing rules, where the MLB determined their actions required the loss of the 12 involved prospects to free agency (including a Top-50 prospect at the time, Kevin Maitan), as well as a cap of $100,000 on spending for the 2020 and 2021 signing periods, and a lifetime ban for John Coppolella (former Braves General Manager). The MLB struck down hard on the Braves then, and I think that set the precedent for future penalties by the MLB. I think that this serves as a good frame work for what should happen to the Astros because this had a direct influence on the game at the major league level both in the regular and postseason.

The potential loss of revenue by teams who otherwise may have beat the Astros in those postseasons- Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Cleveland, etc- leads me to my first point: large team fines. To what extent they should pay, I have no framework, but I think they should have to pay a sum to each team they wronged in the regular season, with extra fines on top for postseason opponents. Or, they should have to pay a large single fine to MLB’s collective marketing arrangement to be distributed across the league. Either works, although I think the first option is more fair.

Then, I think that every member of the Astros coaching staff at the time of these occurrences should be suspended for a year for their actions, including those who have left the Astros organization (ex: Alex Cora, Dave Hudgens). I also think AJ Hinch should face more scrutiny from this with a multi-year suspension. As the manager, you have to take the heat for what your team does. That’s the job, and if he wanted to, he could’ve stopped this. Obviously, he chose not to. (And it irks me that he felt it okay to call-out other teams for being paranoid. What a jerk.) (https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/27859249/astros-aj-hinch-finds-pitch-tipping-paranoia-funny)

Finally, I think that the players involved (Altuve, Correa, McCann, Beltran, etc.) should all have to face suspensions and fines as well. It would be impossible to suspend all players going into the season, but I think a staggered suspension would work well, as the Astros could plan around when players would be out and be able to field a team, but never be at full strength throughout much of the season.

I don’t think this is too extreme, and it has to hurt as to incentivize teams to not bypass the rules, especially as it helped guide the Astros to a World Series championship. Like 1919, this World Series should will always be viewed as illegitimate and it shouldn’t be revoked so that it serves as a reminder of what not to do. As the old idiom goes, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

Andy Singer – If it is proven that the Astros stole signs in the fashion that has been discussed in the media (cameras, coordination throughout the organization, etc.) MLB needs to come down hard. Take 2-3 years of first round draft picks, and an executive or two should be banned from MLB like John Coppolella was a couple of years ago. Teams are not taking Manfred’s edicts seriously, so MLB must make an example of the Astros.

Normally, I expound further on my opinions, but this should be short and sweet – there’s no room for this level of cheating in the sport.





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