Those darn Astros
To every Astros player out there, I give you one message. Don’t deny it. And to every Astros fan, accept that your team cheated, and move out of that denial stage.
Imagine this: You realize that your fellow employees are stealing money from the company, and they offer you a bribe to keep quiet. The average human being when given that scenario, will just say ‘I would turn them in.’ But really, how many would?
From 2017-2019, a total of 85 batters batted for the Houston Astros, not counting duplicates. (I think that a new year means new beliefs, so that’s why. I gave them a chance to reform.) That means that as long as this scandal has been going on, in 3 different years, 85 people, not all different, kept quiet. This leads me to believe that there was some sort of reward for cheating, which brings me to another point.
What kind of an organization pays or rewards their players for cheating? Baseball has never seen anything like this. Sure, one can bring up the Black Sox scandal, but that was 100 YEARS AGO! This is as corrupt as anything since that time. It leads one to believe that there have been other scandals like this one, as it has been proven to work well. Let’s just look at some stats to find out why.
In 2016 the Astros finished 84-78, which was good for a mediocre year. That year, their team batting average (non-pitcher totals) was .247, which is not very good. In 2017, the NEXT YEAR, the Astros finished 101-61, and they won the World Series. Obviously, that’s an unreal jump. Let’s look at the reasons why. First of all, the Astros finished with a .283 batting average, a 36 point jump. Yeah, sure, one can point out that Alex Bregman arrived in the MLB, but he occupied a 3B position that saw a 24 point jump. While that is an amazing jump, out of 21 REAL hitters, a 24 point jump won’t make much of a difference. Oh yeah, and Alex Bregman was 7th on the team in WAR (3.8), and that won’t make much of a difference.
Obviously something changed. Maybe, uh, it was just the Astros’ time to shine! Yeah right. Besides Bregman and Carlos Beltran, the roster pretty much stayed the same. But we all know what changed. A nice way to put it would be ‘A change of philosophy.’ Another, maybe not as nice, way to put it is ‘Those @#$%ing cheaters.’ I’ll take the not so happy medium. Even that would go a little something like ‘Those filthy cheaters.’ (See what I did there, just replaced the swear word.)
In 2018, something must have changed. The team average dropped down to .256, but they still finished 103-59. In this year, the pitching carried the team when the bats couldn’t. The Astros had a wicked rotation of Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, and Lance McCullers Jr.
It’s hard to say what this change is due to. Carlos Correa dropped to a .239 average. But can that explain a whole team’s decline? No. No it can’t. So why were they that worse hitting? Well, I have a theory. When they banged on a trash can in 2017, teams must have noticed. That’s not something that goes on in a regular MLB ballpark. The White Sox noticed it, and when they did, they mixed up their signs. The Nationals also discovered it.
In 2019, the team average was back to .275, and the Astros lost in 7 in the World Series. Correa was back on track, and Jose Aktuve was as good as ever. Alex Bregman hit 41 home runs, Michael Brantley hit .311, and everything was back on track. Or, was it?
On November 12, 2019, a man by the name of Mike Fiers reported an incident, which happened to involve the Astros. THIS SCANDAL. Fiers had warned his A’s teamates that the Astros stole signs, so the A’s were the most prepared team in the MLB. And then it all came out.
The truth, the truth, and nothing but the truth. It’s a saying that’s often used, but in the case of the Astros scandal and Mike Fiers, it fits perfectly. Fiers came out with all of the details, and it went a little something like this: somebody sees the pitch by the catcher, they relay that message to the dugout, somebody in the dugout bangs a trash can, and then the hitter knows the pitch.
The thing is, one can’t do much about this. If you were the commissioner, what would you do? What can you do? First off, although the common response will be to erase the 2017 World Series, it’s just not possible. Fans of the Astros would argue that only the struggling players used the cheating method, but even that is out of the realm of possibility. Wouldn’t Mike Fiers mention that? The punishment cannot be light either. It cannot just be to be on probation. It cannot be just losing draft picks. No, it has to send a statement to all MLB cheaters that the MLB will not lay down lightly to scandal! We did this 100 years ago, we will do this now!
Although those past words may comfort the MLB, it WON’T comfort the players who lost their careers to this scandal. This sounds so weird at first like, Ben, how would a player lose their CAREER from some stolen signs. Well, this is how: a) Some players are just up replacing an injured player, and they only stick around for as long as that player is injured. Well if they do SO POORLY in their MLB debut, what will happen when the injured player returns? They will be referred to as “that player who got ROCKED by the Astros” and they’ll be just another player. b) Let’s say that a highly touted prospect comes up for their MLB debut, and fans are super excited to see this kid play! Now that kid gets rocked for 6 runs in the first inning. How will that change a fan’s standpoint? And, how will that change a team’s standpoint? c) In Mike Fiers’s own words:
“I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing,” Fiers said in the story. “Young guys getting hit around in the first couple of innings starting a game, and then they get sent down. It’s [B.S.] on that end. It’s ruining jobs for younger guys. The guys who know are more prepared. But most people don’t. That’s why I told my team. We had a lot of young guys with Detroit [in 2018] trying to make a name and establish themselves. I wanted to help them out and say, ‘Hey, this stuff really does go on. Just be prepared.'”
The MLB should by all means make an example of the Astros. Is this league a league where teams can cheat, win a World Series, and just come away with losing a couple of draft picks? Is that how baseball is?
In 1919 the White Sox threw a World Series. Everyone knew it. And what happened? 8 players got banned from baseball, and they didn’t make the playoffs until 1959. But that was then and this is now. We can’t allow the Astros to have THAT BAD of a punishment, although it should be bad.
The MLB is helpless. They cannot do much. But what I do recommend, is, oh, wait. There is nothing, nothing that can be done to make this as right as possible. On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is losing draft picks and 10 is the death penalty, this should be a 6. The Black Sox would have been a 9. What is 6?
In my opinion, number 6 is a combination of all sorts of things. This scandal is either the best of the worst, or the worst of the best. You cannnot punish it lightly, but not too hard either. It is an endless loop, where the best outcome is to just hope, pray that this will never happen again.
The ideal punishment is: losing every draft pick for the next 2 years, heavy probation, and a scan of the involvement of coaches, and banning those coaches appropriately.
What is done is done. No one can change it. And this is what baseball has turned into. A loop of, oh I’m cheating, and then, oh I caught you. But I still have faith. Baseball will be bigger, baseball will be stronger, and baseball, in the end, will prevail.
An important lesson, actually two important lessons. One on karma. ‘You can only strench the rubber band a certain distance until it snaps and hits you. And another on life in general. ‘All plots will be discovered, as they’re not plots unless they are discovered.’
One more thing, baseball is stronger. And we will move on.