The Detroit Tigers played the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on MLB.TV in 2017, the year the Astros won the World Series.
It wasn’t the Astros beating up the Tigers that intrigued me. It was more about whistle noises and banging of a garbage can while a ballgame was in progress that I watched. It was odd, but interesting. I did not make much of it at the time.
Looking back now after the Astros used noises as a way to tip their hitters what a pitcher would throw, it all comes together now. We all knew the Astros provided the cutting edge of building a roster and making players great through analytics, but who knew they found unique ways of how to cheat?
The Astros paid the price on Monday by forfeiting their first-and-second round draft picks in each of the next two years and being fined $5 million. They lost their general manager Jeff Luhnow and their manager A.J. Hinch for good after Astros owner Jim Crane fired both of them likely at Major League Baseball’s urging.
Luhnow and Hinch received a one- year suspension from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. Then-Astros bench coach Alex Cora lost his job as the Red Sox manager after being involved in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal by having a video room technician installing a monitor displaying the center field camera feed immediately outside of the Astros’ dugout at Minute Maid Park.
Major League Baseball did not strip the Astros of their 2017 World Series championship, which is what baseball fans wanted.
No matter. Repercussions happened for the principals involved. Baseball fans, baseball players and anyone associated with the game know the Astros’ championship is now tainted for good. There’s a good chance Luhnow, Hinch and Cora could be blackballed from the game forever. Mets manager Carlos Beltran could lose his job after being part of the report, even though he was not punished. The championship reunion with the Astros won’t mean much anymore, and there’s a good chance that team will never be honored.
The parties involved have to ask themselves if it was worth it.
Sure they will be remembered as the architects that built the franchise its first championship, but in the end, they are out of a job, and they may never be hired again.
Look, teams cheat in sports. It’s been the cold, ugly truth forever. It will never change. Yes, the commissioner made the Astros an example by offering strict sanctions, but teams will find ways to cheat no matter what.
It’s just that the Astros took it to the extreme that Major League Baseball had no choice but to punish them and the perpetrators. It takes a special kind of chutzpah for the Astros to keep cheating by using technology, even when they were told to knock it off.
Did Luhnow and Hinch think they would never get caught? Eventually, there would be a smoking gun on them. It turned out to be former Astro turned Athletics pitcher, Mike Fiers, who snitched to the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich about the Astros stealing signs that got baseball’s attention.
Yes, Fiers clearly had an ax to grind with Luhnow after not making the postseason roster in the World Series championship year, so that should have had the disgrace Astros general manager have some awareness.
Did Luhnow and Hinch think they would never get caught? Eventually, there would be a smoking gun on them. It turned out to be Athletics pitcher Mike Fiers, who snitched to the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich about the Astros stealing signs that got baseball’s attention.
Luhnow gets what he deserves. He has been arrogant for way too long since he has been in the baseball industry. When he worked for the Cardinals, he was despised there for him cutting corners in building a team. He pulled the same stunt for the Astros, and he thought he would just get by and find a way to get away with it. Sooner or later, it catches up to him.
He paid the price, and it’s hard to believe Major League Baseball wants him in its industry once his suspension ends. It wasn’t worth it in the end, and it shouldn’t have been worth it in the first place.
No one can take the championships, banners, trophies and memories away from the Astros in 2017. They executed on the field in the end despite cheating, and cheating does not guarantee winning since all teams tend to do it with no results. But no matter what. This is a tragedy in so many ways. Careers have been ruined, organization becomes tainted and the World Series championship turns out to be a running joke than a source of pride.
The Astros get what they deserve for not only pushing boundaries, but then covering it up.
Even then Luhnow double-talked his way out of this one by saying he takes accountability for the sign-stealing, but he’s not a cheater.
Even when he got his, he tried to hustle his way out of it.
As admirable as it is, that chutzpah can only go far.
Good luck to him getting a job in Major League Baseball along with Cora and Hinch.
Let’s see them pull out their next trick.