Cheaters never prosper 2017 update: they do sometimes win a world series
January 24, 2020 12:59 PM   Subscribe

The Astro's cheating scandal gets an update as the punishments have been decided by the league office. The Astros manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for only a year (though subsequently fired), and the team was stripped of it's first and second-round draft picks for 2020 and 2021. Alex Cora and Carlos Beltrán were also fired/resigned from managing the Red Sox and the Mets (though some could argue managing the Mets is punishment enough)

So far that's been the extent of any other punishment, despite there being some calling for more, up to vacating their world series win or suspending them for a season.

The players were apparently granted immunity in the investigation, despite further speculation it wasn't just banging on trash cans but potentially wearing buzzers as well, the evidence for which is interesting bulges on the Astros jerseys, as well as Altuve potentially hiding it on a walk-off.

The players have responded with anger, both about the actual cheating as well as the loss of awards and potentially destroying bubble pitchers careers.

Included now has been the backlash of Mike Fiers. Despite plenty of rumors floating throughout the league, he was the first person to put him name on the record (see previously), which has lead to hand-wringing about the violation of club-house sanctity and the unwritten rules of the game.
posted by Carillon (55 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
My suggestion to local fans with World Series champs caps to put a little patch featuring a beat up metal trashcan (to honor the real MVP of the series, the can used for alerting batters) on their hat has not been well received.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:06 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


From the last NYT link:
“There is a code in baseball that somewhat resembles the blue line in law enforcement. The locker room is sacred; you do not reveal compromising information publicly about other players nor your organization. It does not think, it does not rationalize, it does not moralize. It just protects, sometimes to its own detriment.”
Says everything I need to know about how toxic this particular sports culture is and how it allows this kind of cheating/scandal to exist.
posted by Fizz at 1:06 PM on January 24 [23 favorites]


And to think last year all we were worried about was how far you can toss your bat before it looks rude . . .
posted by Think_Long at 1:09 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]


Says everything I need to know about how toxic this particular sports culture is and how it allows this kind of cheating/scandal to exist.

I'd hazard to guess that if there is a big bright line like that in baseball, it's preventing people from coming forward about a lot more important things than cheating at baseball, too.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:12 PM on January 24 [6 favorites]


Seeing as today brought news that the NFL's New Orleans Saints secretly helped with PR damage control for local Catholic priests accused of child abuse, I'm going to assume you're right.

But also the Astros should have been burned to the ground for this.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:15 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


The punishment has been called 'unprecendented' but to be honest I was shocked at how light they were. People I speak with had been talking about lifetime bans for some of the front office folks at least, given the Black Sox scandal precedent. It really comes across like Manfred was told by the owners to sweep this under the rug as quickly as possible, shut down the search with just the Astros in the spotlight (to say nothing of the Red Sox who won the next year with Alex Cora at the helm), and try and move on. Definitely disappointing, and while the draft picks are big, I'm not certain they're big enough. If this is the price for a ring, I know more than a few teams and fanbases that would take it.
posted by Carillon at 1:24 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]




Carillon, I'm a Philadelphia fan and in the years after our last WS win we cut ties with the manager and general manager from that run (the next week for the GM!) and whiffed on multiple first- and second-round draft picks. Would I reverse all of that if it cost the 2008 title? Not a chance. So there's your answer.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:51 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


In a weird way, I get what Pedro Martinez is saying. His argument as I read it is you should do something when you’re there, in the moment. Waiting until you leave and then talking about it to the press isn’t the exemplar of courage.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 1:59 PM on January 24


What a fucking joke of a punishment.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:00 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


Oh, and why there weren’t lifetime suspensions (plural) makes no sense to me.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 2:00 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Is Cora still under investigation for cheating with the Red Sox? If so, he’s still a prime candidate for a lifetime ban.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 2:02 PM on January 24


As a (possibly former now) Red Sox fan, this really hurt. I always that Alex Cora was a stand-up guy with some moral backbone (i.e. not going to 45's McDonalds buffet welcome).
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 2:09 PM on January 24


Can they be forced to play with their opposite arms for the next two seasons?
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 2:11 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


...and still, Pete Rose is banned for life. For betting ON (not against) his own team.

These guys actually cheated. On games. Directly affecting games. The fuck?
posted by notsnot at 2:12 PM on January 24 [20 favorites]


Is Cora still under investigation for cheating with the Red Sox? If so, he’s still a prime candidate for a lifetime ban.

Yes, the investigation into the Red Sox 2018 season is ongoing and there seems to be a widespread expectation that Cora will end up getting the harsh punishment people wanted to see dished out to the Astros players, since he allegedly led the cheating in Boston, and doesn't have a CBA to protect him from arbitrary punishments now that he's a manager.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:13 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Previously, in baseball cheating (there’s been a lot, and nobody really cared).

Alex Cora suggesting that Yankees special assistant Carlos Beltran might’ve been up to something during the ALDS last season. But the Yankees aren’t in trouble.

MLB investigated wearable devices and found no evidence of them.

Lots of other teams, including Dodgers, Yankees, Blue Jays and Brewers accused of using cameras to steal signs. (Blue Jays also referenced in first list.)

(Disclaimer: Astros fan here. Capable of levels of denial and whataboutism that would make Republican Senators blush.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:28 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't believe that about Pete Rose, that's what he occasionally said, but I'm not sure that's a trustworthy source.

Ooh, update that I missed, Keuchel apologizes for the cheating.
posted by Carillon at 2:31 PM on January 24


I've always had a soft spot in my heart for utility players--guys who don't do anything flashy, are never going to win a Gold Glove or break any RBI records, and will never be responsible for clutch extra-innings walk-off heroics but still go out there, keep their heads down, play the game, and manage to do one or two small things each time that help their team win. Maybe they draw a walk at an important time. Maybe they get a very routine hit that advances a runner who then goes on to score. Maybe it's nothing more than running up the pitch count until they strike out swinging. They're quietly essential.

I'm a Red Sox fan because I'm a native New Englander from a family of Red Sox fans, and when Alex Cora was playing for the Red Sox, he was my guy. I was pretty psyched when he was hired to manage, and his outspoken insistence that people pay attention to the suffering in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria was great.

So, yeah, this hurts. But I think baseball fans everywhere should be honest with themselves that their team is absolutely doing something like this, and likely all sorts of other kinds of cheating, too, and not get all holier-than-thou. The current punishments are MLB's attempt to save face and make an example of a few people and shouldn't be interpreted as a statement on the severity of the rules violations nor as a verdict on the innocence of anyone else.
posted by jesourie at 2:38 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't believe that about Pete Rose, that's what he occasionally said, but I'm not sure that's a trustworthy source.

Indeed.
Yes, he admitted in 2004, after almost 15 years of denials, he had placed bets on baseball, but he insisted it was only as a manager.

But new documents obtained by Outside the Lines indicate Rose bet extensively on baseball -- and on the Cincinnati Reds -- as he racked up the last hits of a record-smashing career in 1986. The documents go beyond the evidence presented in the 1989 Dowd report that led to Rose's banishment and provide the first written record that Rose bet while he was still on the field.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:56 PM on January 24


Seems to me MLB ought to require players to bet on themselves. Would really cut down on the lallygagging.
posted by MorgansAmoebas at 3:03 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


They should be stripped of the title, and possibly have their entire season vacated.

Anything less than title removal is bullshit.
posted by Sphinx at 4:04 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


My Grandmother, a lifelong Astros fan, died shortly after they won the World Series. She had a rough exit, and their championship helped ease her suffering. I don't care that they cheated. I'm just happy they put a smile on my Grandmother's face when she was on her deathbed.
posted by Beholder at 4:14 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Major League Baseball isn't a sport. It is an entertainment industry like WWE. They bring in over $10 billion a year. The average team is worth $1.8 billion.

They aren't going to do anything that threatens that income stream. They will do the minimum necessary to keep the money flowing. The owners, all billionaires, are also the board of directors. They will cover each other's backs.
posted by JackFlash at 4:19 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]


What Sphinx said. Hard to enjoy baseball as a sport if one is aware the outcome is not sportably decided. It really is about honor and respect as athletes.

I am an S.F. Giants fan, a native of the city, identity tied to the Giants, Niners, you know the drill. If it were ever the case the Giants had cheated on a systematic level, I’d want the titles vacated, the team kicked out, the players banned. Collateral damage sucks but integrity requires eternal vigilance.
posted by Jubal Kessler at 4:20 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Oh, and why there weren’t lifetime suspensions (plural) makes no sense to me.

Because there is no doubt that the teams and individuals that broke the rules were still trying to win the game. The Draconian punishment of Pete Rose is because he called into question that fundamental requirement of professional sports. He can claim he only bet on his own team to win all he likes, there's no way to prove that's true..

But steroids and sign stealing (while against the rules and deserve punishments) do not call into question the fundamental assumption.

Should the punishment be harsher? Sure, it should be and this is probably career killing as it stands. But I'll defend the rarity of the lifetime ban for those that cause the idea of competition into question every day.
posted by East14thTaco at 4:36 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Ah, but it’s no fun to watch a sport where one side is known to cheat to gain leverage against the other. Winning by any means isn’t, in sports, the only objective. The audience has to believe, too, that it was won honorably.
posted by Jubal Kessler at 4:45 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I am an S.F. Giants fan, a native of the city, identity tied to the Giants, Niners, you know the drill. If it were ever the case the Giants had cheated on a systematic level, I’d want the titles vacated, the team kicked out, the players banned.

When the (NY, admittedly) Giants had their big famous comeback in 1951 and Bobby Thomson hit the shot heard round the world and the Giants won the pennant, the Giants were stealing signs.

Also I’m basically OK with Barry Bonds and the ‘roids, but this opinion is not universally shared.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:54 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Oh, ffs. Okay, point noted. Time to vacate the 1951 title!!
posted by Jubal Kessler at 4:58 PM on January 24


(vacate the pennant, I should say... the Yanks beat them that year in the Series.)
posted by Jubal Kessler at 5:28 PM on January 24


If Rose only bet on his own team to win, then by not betting he was telling bookies he didn't have confidence in the team for that game. That's why gambling is a blanket ban for players and coaches - no matter what you're doing, you're affecting the integrity of the game.

This is going to be an interesting season. Everyone is going to be watching the Astros, and if they have a sub-par year it's going to solidify the damage to all of their careers, and likely cost a few of them a significant number of Hall of Fame votes.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:31 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I'm just here with umbrage regarding the slur about managing my beloved Mets in the post, and I would like to say that I've had enough, but I'm a lifelong Mets fan so I don't think that's possible.
posted by oneironaut at 6:18 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


The 2020 edition of lolMets just started slightly earlier this year, that’s all.

I lived within a 15 minute walk from Dodger Stadium during 2017 and 2018, and my Dodger fandom 50ish years before I was born when my grandfather started following them in Brooklyn in the 20’s.

Reading the whataboutism from the Houston/Boston fans in this thread shows that cheaters do prosper, and in fact their fan bases require it.

I bought a house on a hill a few miles from Angel Stadium, and I look forward to the roar of boos every time the Astros come to town. Anaheim was already practically Dodger Stadium East, but this April 3rd through 5th will be especially blue.
posted by sideshow at 6:31 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Did somebody mention the Dodgers?

(I’ll quit threadsitting now)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:11 PM on January 24


My Grandmother, a lifelong Astros fan, died shortly after they won the World Series. She had a rough exit, and their championship helped ease her suffering. I don't care that they cheated. I'm just happy they put a smile on my Grandmother's face when she was on her deathbed.

I'm sure there were some elderly Dodger fans out there that weren't so lucky.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 8:49 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


I'm sure there were some elderly Dodger fans out there that weren't so lucky.

The Dodgers had already won championships.
posted by Beholder at 10:27 PM on January 24


Did somebody mention the Dodgers?

I also mentioned Houston fans and their embarrassing amount of whatabboutism. Hope your boy Altuve survives all the balls getting thrown at him. He won’t need the buzzer to know what kind of pitches are coming his way then.
posted by sideshow at 10:39 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I guess this hits close to home for me. I stood up when I saw corruption at my work and saw instant wagon rallying and my being moved off all projects related. Like instant and deliberate but not fired because I had evidence.

I do think I stopped more lying to clients, but I believe if I hadn’t immediately said NO it would’ve gone on. (How I found out is I made a report and the accounts sent back a new report with fake numbers for me to check. So really as smart as trash fan banging.)

I would instantly end this franchise if I was in charge. But I’m not and no one who would do that ever could be. But I would burn literally all of it to the ground. Cheat again, I dare you. And I would figure out how to watch.

But I’d never be in charge of a for-profit enterprise given how I feel and behave.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:14 AM on January 25 [3 favorites]


Next years away games for the Astro's are going to be lit!
posted by srboisvert at 1:20 AM on January 25


But I think baseball fans everywhere should be honest with themselves that their team is absolutely doing something like this, and likely all sorts of other kinds of cheating, too, and not get all holier-than-thou.

The one constant of cheating is that if you are caught you must immediately claim that everyone is doing it to defend yourself.
posted by srboisvert at 1:24 AM on January 25 [5 favorites]


This pisses me off to no end, even more than the 1994 strike that should have seen my favorite team in the (canceled) World Series and more than the outright theft of the Expos to DC. My grandfather got me into baseball as a toddler and it’s something we shared until his last days and that makes it suck even more for me.

The entire point of professional baseball is to get paid to play a game. There is no consequence to the games except the knowledge that the competition was fair and my team hopefully won (but let’s be honest, considering my followings, my team lost) and I enjoyed the process. Cheating takes that bargain and throws it out the window. Now, I’m paying to watch people be underhanded and lie. If I wanted that, I would go hang out with some people at work.

I wish the Astros would lose their title and maybe even the record for that season, but cynically I know why they won’t.

But, hey, at least nobody cheats at my second love, curling.
posted by fireoyster at 2:39 AM on January 25 [3 favorites]


people were stealing signs in the 19th century - it has always been a part of the game and always will be - the controversy is over cameras being used - but any time you have a runner on 2nd, you have the potential of signs being stolen

(tigers fan, so no accusations of he just wants to defend his winning team, please)

i think MLB pretty much got it right - and vacating titles or seasons is ridiculous, as there isn't a team in baseball that hasn't stolen signs

i'm almost tempted to say there's never been a game where signs haven't been stolen

but they need to make sure that cameras and buzzers and what have you aren't used - do it the old fashioned way with people observing and relaying that to the batter by signs, not banging trash cans

it's not an unfair advantage if everyone can do it - especially when the catcher and pitcher can change the signs
posted by pyramid termite at 3:29 AM on January 25 [5 favorites]


Maybe they should let the pitcher and catcher communicate electronically.
posted by srboisvert at 6:53 AM on January 25 [3 favorites]


Maybe they should let the pitcher and catcher communicate electronically.

I'm of two minds on this idea. On the one hand, I think people would still try to steal signs. The kind of lightweight person-to-person comm devices needed would not be especially hard to hack.

On the other hand, it'd be outside the skill set of players and coaches. So it would require additional personnel... which would take it into the realm of actual cybercrime. This would be a helluva deterrent to an IT guy making 85k a year: help the millionaires cheat and you'll get perp-walked on the evening news and end up in prison.

It would kind of grimly keeping with the spirit of our times to try to prevent the cheerful cheating of multi-millionaires by threatening working people with hard time.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:56 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Oh, ffs. Okay, point noted. Time to vacate the 1951 title!!

Stealing signs by using props wasn't outlawed until 1961 (though, in fairness, it was considered unsporting). That said, I don't consider vacating titles like the NCAA does particularly useful.

Whataboutwhataboutwhatabout.

it's not an unfair advantage if everyone can do it - especially when the catcher and pitcher can change the signs

That brings up another point: If everyone is stealing signs by electronics, then why is it so abnormal for catchers to obfuscate their signs with nobody on base that whole articles are written about it?

If Rose only bet on his own team to win, then by not betting he was telling bookies he didn't have confidence in the team for that game.

Not only that, but if you're betting on your own team to win, you're going to treat a mid-May game, where maybe you need to rest a starter so they're more ready for the big series this weekend and you keep your closer on the bench because they've pitches 3 games in a row, much more like World Series game 7, where all hand are on deck and you have all winter to heal your blown elbow.

I'm angry about the cheating, but I'm more depressed by the instant "everyone does it" reaction by a whole lot of fans. This really is Trump's America.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:11 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


Lol professional sports basically. Why does anyone believe they aren’t cheating or didn’t used to cheat? They work for enterprises that are cheating their communities and the youth of America and their own exploited labor supply of cannon fodder and millions of couch/bound Americans eating the shit and taking the drugs (this Bud’s for you, sports fan!) they advertise (that no real athlete would ever touch) while saying they like “sports.”

Pffft. Fuck MLB, and the NFL and the NBA. And the NCAA too. Just giant swamps of toxicity all the way down.

I was a die hard Red Sox fan as a Boston boy. Then I grew up.
posted by spitbull at 9:24 AM on January 25


But, hey, at least nobody cheats at my second love, curling.

To be fair, curling curling looks like a sport that would be more fun if you were a little high. If nothing else, it would improve with a base of a couple of beers and a smoke.
posted by rtimmel at 9:39 AM on January 25


I'm angry about the cheating, but I'm more depressed by the instant "everyone does it" reaction
&
Lol professional sports basically.

Every organization of any size will "cheat" or contain a substantial amount of employees and ownership that breaks the rules in some fashion or another. There is no industry or group of people that are immune to this, professional sports are just one notable example of it for being based around game rules in additional to legal and ethical standards. The difference is more that game rules are ones supposedly even kids understand, though kids sports aren't exactly free of problems themselves. People cheat in pick up games, table top games and cards when they think they can get away with it, not all people of course, not even most, but enough to make the Astros actions completely unsurprising other than maybe in the scale of the operation.

It would be to miss something essential about human nature to think rule breaking is a rare event or that important external stakes even need to be involved for it to happen. People break the rules as much because it's easier and makes them look good, when they aren't detected, as anything else. It happens everywhere and as far back as history can account. It's built in to the nature of humankind, which is a big part of why we constantly face so many problems that could be remedied were we as altruistic and concerned about doing the right thing as we pretend to be.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:13 AM on January 25


Dodgers fan group ready to let the Astros hear it — at Angel Stadium (Bill Shaikin, LA Times)

The Astros don't visit the Dodgers this year, but visit the nearby Angels, so the fan group got a block of tickets to an Angels game to let the Astros hear what Dodgers fans think of them.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:03 PM on January 25 [3 favorites]


As a long time Houston resident who saw tons of games in the old Astrodome growing up, I say give ‘em hell, Dodgers fans!
posted by Burhanistan at 7:37 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Baseball's biggest hypocrite, Justin Verlander brags about Houston's "technologically analytically advanced" techniques, to hearty guffaws from the Baseball Writers Association of America members.

I think I'm done with baseball.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:22 AM on January 26


2017 was an exceptionally shitty year for Houston. Hurricane Harvey would cap two years of exceptional flooding by raining so hard that the National Weather Service created two new rainfall colors mid-storm to represent the maps accurately.

Harvey hit in late August and early September. I can't possibly convey to you what it felt like to wake up to the rain, spend all day listening to it, and go to bed with it falling still. For days.

The Astros won the Series about six weeks later. I remember I flew back from a big international trip the night of Game 5 and being super grateful that--as I drove on the 45 next to Minute Maid right at the time that 40,000 fans should have been pouring onto the freeway--the game was going into extra innings. I remember being proud and excited that the Astros were winning.

It was such a shitty year. The bright spot was the Astros winning the Series. It felt like they were winning for the city. It felt like maybe horrible flooding would no longer be the default Houston. To learn that that was all made up? To learn that they cheated their way to the title that year? Y'all can't begin to realize how deeply the Astros hurt the city--and how that is as much of a punishment as anything MLB could have come up with.
posted by librarylis at 7:46 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


People have done a deep dive into the specific pitches where the banging is audible in game video, and it turns out the on-field results were somewhat mixed. There's also pretty high variation among the players who would have benefited, with some players benefiting across the board, some actually playing worse when tipped about what pitch was coming, and many doing better in some situations but worse in others. The most ridiculous thing to me is that nearly half of the situations where we know without a doubt the scheme was being used came when the game was already decided and the value to the team of getting a hit or taking a walk would be at its lowest, but, whatever, cheating to beat the Orioles 12-3 rather than 9-3 does seem like some deeply Astros Mindset nonsense to me.
posted by Copronymus at 11:07 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


The world just learned of the Astros’ cheating. Inside baseball, it was an open secret. (Barry Svrluga, Dave Sheinin; Washington Post on MSN)
According to people at all levels throughout the sport — players, clubhouse staff members, scouts and executives — the idea that the Astros employed nefarious methods was an open secret.

[…]

“It was a big open secret, really big,” said a veteran scout from another team whose coverage included the Astros. “Throughout baseball, throughout the scouting community, for several years, not just starting in 2017. I would say probably 2016, maybe earlier, through [2019], things were going on that were blatantly against the rules.”

Into this arena stepped the Nationals, appearing in the World Series for the first time in October. They entered the series as underdogs to 107-win Houston. But they came armed with two advantages: time to prepare, by virtue of their sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series; and an entire sport that had a vested interest in having anyone but the Astros win the championship.

As one member of the Nationals put it, “It was amazing, once [it was assured] we were playing the Astros, how many people were coming out of the woodwork to let us know what they were doing.”
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:44 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


A certain crime boss has come out in favor of reinstating Pete Rose.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:53 AM on February 12


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