It all started in an article written for The Athletic that laid the allegations out thanks to information from former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers. Then, it began to snowball. A series of videos were released that revealed an obvious pattern: the catcher would give the signal, there would be a faint series of thumps, then the Astros would get a big hit. The MLB opened an investigation, and punishment was doled out; however, for many, more still needed to happen.
Sign stealing is nothing new to baseball. It has essentially occurred since baseball itself was invented. The first known occurrence of sign stealing was in 1876 when now long-defunct Hartford Dark Blues had someone hide in a shack to read when a curveball was signaled. While such behavior has always had an impact on the game, the use of technology in stealing signs has been explicitly banned since technology could be used to steal signs. But, starting in 2017 and continuing through 2018, the Astros began stealing signs with a camera in center field that fed to a monitor in the tunnel that led into the dugout then based off that feed someone would bang a trash can if it was an off-speed pitch. After the allegations surfaced, it snowballed for the Astros. The punishment from the MLB was a $5 million fine, forfeiting their picks in the first two rounds of the 2020 and 2021 picks and the suspension of the manager and general manager of the Astros which led to their firing. However many feel this is still too weak of a punishment considering in 2017 the Astros won a World Series while they were stealing signs.
While it is definitely fair that the Astros are universally hated, much anger should also go towards commissioner Rob Manfred. While stripping a team of a title is unheard of on the professional level, it has happened several times at the collegiate level and the Astros scandal is new territory due to it being a team-wide effort that lasted as long as it did.
However, Manfred said that “The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act” Manfred’s whole job is to protect the reputation of the league, but he dismisses the importance of the World Series with this quote. Not only did Manfred not strip the Astros of the title, but he also didn’t take action against any of the players involved. To the fans, this seemed as a failure of leadership according to a poll by Seton Hall. Fifty-four percent of fans said the players should have been punished, 49 percent of fans said this was a cover up by Manfred, and only 14 percent of fans said this was serious effort to punish wrongdoing. This was the first team-wide scandal to affect baseball since the Chicago Black Sox game-fixing scandal in 1919 and despite the rarity of such a large-scale scandal, it seems as if Manfred largely didn’t punish the Astros to the extent they should have been punished…
The Astros season came to an end Saturday night with a game 7 loss in the ALCS and many fans across the league breathed a large sigh of relief on Saturday night as it officially shut down the possibility of the Astros winning a World Series less than a year separated from the allegations of cheating that let them win the 2017 World Series. This team was without a doubt the most-hated team in modern baseball, and quite possibly the most-hated team in modern history of any sport. Even this year’s new manager for the Astros, Dusty Baker, had acknowledged how hated the Astros were this year. The Astros violated the integrity of the game, cheated their way to a World Series, and avoided any player punishment. It seems only fair the Astros feel the hatred of the rest of the league until the team consistently loses, which might not happen for 3 to5 years where they will be missing the impact of the 2020 and 2021 draft picks that they forfeited. But potentially being bad years from now doesn’t quite seem to be fair given they stole a World Series.