‘Everybody does it” will not get a person out of a speeding ticket, charge for possession of marijuana or other offense, and it should not absolve the Houston Astros of responsibility for gaming the game.
Major League Baseball this week determined the Astros violated its rules by operating an elaborate, technology-based system to steal other teams’ signs. The player-driven system used an illegal camera feed to crack sign sequences and feed pitch types live to hitters via banging a baseball bat against a trash can, according to the MLB investigation.
Yes, players still had to execute, but that’s far easier to do when the hitter knows what pitch is coming.
The punishment was severe for two people, so far — General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch. Both joined the team in 2014 and left the same day when owner Jim Crane fired them days after receiving MLB’s findings. Under the league’s technology policy, issued late in the Astros’ 2017 world championship season, managers and GMs would be held responsible for any coordinated cheating, and each will serve their next year of unemployment under suspension.
Luhnow apologized to the team, the fans and the city but declared “I am not a cheater,” despite receiving “at least two emails “ informing him of replay-review room sign decoding and doing nothing about it. He then absolved himself of responsibility by blaming “players” and “low-level employees working with the bench coach.”
That bench coach is Alex Cora, who now also finds himself unemployed after being fired Tuesday as manager of the Boston Red Sox because of his role in the scandal. The Red Sox, who were caught using an Apple Watch to relay signs earlier in 2017, won the World Series in 2018 after Cora became their manager.
Would the “everyone cheats” argument go away if the Red Sox and New York Yankees — another team rumored to have crafted a sign-stealing system — were also dealt substantial punishments? Probably not. Excusing the Astros’ behavior is borne of the same disconnect as a mother proclaims her child’s innocence regardless how much evidence is stacked against them.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, in his report on the investigation, said the Astros’ actions violated “the principles of sportsmanship and fair competition.” Doing so helped them win a World Series, rake in tens of millions of dollars in extra revenue and puts it in company with baseball’s traditional elites. In this instance, the cheaters very much prospered.
That perspective only makes the punishments levied against the franchise — a $5 million fine and loss of first- and second-round draft choices in consecutive seasons — more than justified. Leaders of other franchises actually consider the measures too light, according to sources cited by ESPN.
Regardless of the punitive measures taken, Major League Baseball couldn’t do nothing. One violator shouldn’t escape punishment because there might be other offenders. There is one inescapable truth here: The Astros did something wrong, they knew it was wrong, knew the potential consequences and continued to do it anyway.
They had to pay a price for it.