If You Ain’t Cheating…

Dedicated fans of the Houston Astros in the MLB have been a part of quite the ride over the past decade; even more so within the past few years and recent. In 2013, the team established a new franchise-record for most losses in a single season with 111 along with sporting the worst record (51-111) in the entire MLB which consists of 30 teams. For even a die-hard fan to say during these dark times that this team would eventually win a World Series, would have been an absolutely absurd remark, however, this is exactly what would happen in the following years. In 2017, the Houston Astros, who had finished dead last only four years prior, out-bested the Los Angeles Dodgers in series that went to game seven, eventually resulting in the Astros becoming World Series Champions. However, not long after the celebrations had commemorated did rumors start to arises about some of the methods the Astros used to capture their title, ever.

Astros team members rush toward one another near the pitcher’s mound.
Moments after the final out of game 7 between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Houston Astros are the 2017 World Series Champions. (Source: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

Over the next few years the one-time World Champs were being labeled as cheaters within the sports world with not much more than gossip surrounding the claims. This all changed when an official report was released by the MLB in early January. The MLB had found that the Astros have been found guilty of cheating, most significantly by using technology to steal opposing catcher’s signs and to relay this information to their batters. This information allowed the batter to know information about the pitch before it was thrown, facilitating a response to be configured before the pitch was even delivered. The MLB handed out a harsh, yet some say not harsh-enough, punishment against the team. This consisted of one-year suspensions for Astros manager, A.J. Hinch and general manager, Jeff Luhnow, loss of first and second-round picks for the next two upcoming drafts, and a five million dollar fine assessed to the team.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was stated after the decision that ‘Sign stealing is one of those gray areas of baseball: Every team does it, but there are vaguely defined limits about how shameless they can be. If a runner on second can figure it out and signal to the batter, the opposing pitcher-catcher duo should be smart enough to switch the signs. But if the runner on second figured it out with the aid of technology, that’s cheating—as MLB has made emphatically clear’. This statement explains that it was not the sign stealing that was the issue with the Astros, it was the use of technology that made this method unjust.

This cheating scandal is now being compared to the BALCO scandal, however, some players believe that this technique is even more toxic. Alex Wood’s, a pitcher for the LA Dodgers who faced off against the Astros in the 2017 World Series, tweeted after the MLBs decision that “I would rather face a player who was taking steroids than face a player that knew every pitch that was coming.”

This event opens the floodgates in respect that cheating within the sports realm is evolving. As our society continually develops, it has begun leaning upon technological advancements more everyday as they are needed to keep up with the tremendous pace that we have set. We are seeing the transition from obvious, explicit deviant acts such as using performance enhancing substances to more discrete methods such as using technology to get the upper hand in sport. For years, the Houston Astros were at the bottom of the barrell, and it was clear to most that they could not see the light. As a team, they collectively made the decision to use known illegal measures. With the manager and general manager aware of the tactics, who were the players to make the judgment call against it? At the end of the day, the players are simply employees and if they were to speak out, they may have lost their jobs. This scenario has been studied by sociologists before as players who believe that their coaches would do anything to win have a higher positive expectation to cheating. It was once thought that the 2017 Houston Astros were a sort of Cinderella team, now we see a different story.

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Featured Image: Houston Astros owner Jim Crane speaks to press after ruling of punishment for cheating goes live. (Source: Yi-Chin Lee, MBO / Associated Press)

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