Houston Astros should have been stripped of World Series title for cheating


Category:  Sports

Via:  john-russell  •  9 months ago  •  14 comments

Houston Astros should have been stripped of World Series title for cheating

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Houston Astros should have been stripped of World Series title for cheating


The penalty was harsh and yet it was not harsh enough. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred made an emphatic statement Monday when he shook his entire sport by handing down one-year suspensions to Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch, the general manager and manager of the Houston Astros.

The commissioner also fined the Astros $5 million and stripped them of their first and second-round draft picks each of the next two seasons. Those are franchise-crippling penalties and the Astros earned them by using video replay technology and some trash cans to cheat their way to a World Series title in 2017.


Astros owner Jim Crane swiftly responded by firing Luhnow and Hinch, a move that could help restore his own integrity. Unlike New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, the king of denial, Crane at least did something when his organization was caught cheating.

On the other hand, Crane should have had a lot more questions for his general manager and manager before baseball investigated a story that had been brewing for quite some time. The A’s, for instance, asked baseball to investigate the Astros for sign stealing in August 2018 and an Astros employee was removed from a camera well next to the Boston dugout before Game 1 of the 2018 ALCS.

“I have higher standards for the city and the franchise and I’m going above and beyond MLB’s penalty,” Crane said Monday at a news conference in Houston. “I have made the decision to dismiss A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow. We need to move forward with a clean slate and the Astros will become a stronger organization because of this today. When I found out I was very upset. We want to be known by playing by the rules. We broke the rules and we accept the punishment.”

The most disturbing thing Crane said is that “there is nothing that is clear to suggest it affected the outcome. … I feel we had the best team on the field [in 2017].”

Perhaps they did. We’ll never know. They cheated. One thing that suggests it affected the outcome is common sense. A hitter is at a distinct advantage if he knows ahead of time that either a fastball or an off-speed pitch is headed toward home plate, and that’s what the Astros’ scheme was revealing.

The numbers are also revealing. The Astros went 8-1, averaged 5.7 runs per game and hit 18 home runs during their nine postseason home games in 2017. They were 3-6 and averaged three runs per game with nine home runs in their nine postseason road games.

Houston advanced to the World Series by beating the New York Yankees in seven games in 2017. It was the final game as Yankees manager for new Phillies manager Joe Girardi, who said at the winter meeting last month in San Diego that he was not shocked by the allegations against the Astros.

“We had put in a lot of things to try to combat certain things," Girardi said. “You know, word gets around.”

To be sure, there is more to come on this issue because baseball is still investigating the Boston Red Sox, who also cheated their way to a World Series in similar fashion in 2018. Alex Cora was Boston’s first-year manager when the Red Sox won it all. The year before, he was the Astros’ bench coach and, according to baseball’s investigation, received text messages from the Houston video replay room telling him what pitch was coming.

It will be shocking if Cora, who was considered one of the masterminds of the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme, is not the next manager to be suspended, He, too, should be out of work if Red Sox owner John Henry wants to maintain the integrity of his franchise.


Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora could soon be facing a suspension similar to the one Houston manager A.J. Hinch received Monday.

While Manfred’s penalty was harsh, he could have sent an even stronger message by stripping the Astros of their 2017 World Series title. Make them take down the banner at Minute Maid Park and vacate all records of their title. If you don’t think that hurts, ask the players from the 2004 USC football team how they feel about the Trojans being forced to return the national championship trophy because of NCAA rules violations.

That sort of punishment seems even more appropriate in this case because,  according to the MLB investigation,  many of the players, including new Mets manager Carlos Beltran, were the driving force behind the scheme.

As for the integrity of Luhnow and Hinch, it’s gone forever. Considered one of the brilliant architects of baseball’s analytics age, Luhnow, who has economics and engineering degrees from Penn, is now simply a guy who did not have the courage to put a stop to a cheating scheme. Ditto for Hinch, whose professional playing career ended after playing for the Phillies’ triple-A team at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2005.

This, of course, was not the first technology-based sign-stealing system in the game’s history. The Phillies, in fact, were the innovators in that regard when in 1900 they used a telegraph wire buried in dirt to relay signals from the third-base coach to the hitter.

Their plot was foiled in mid-September when Cincinnati shortstop  Tommy Corcoran discovered a metal box a couple of inches below the third-base coaching box  at Philadelphia Base Ball Park, later known as the Baker Bowl. Inside the box were electrical wires through which someone in the stadium would send jolts to signal to the third-base coach what pitch was coming, and the coach would let the batter know.

The best part of the story was it appeared to work. The Phillies went 45-23 at home that season and averaged 6.4 runs. On the road, they were just 30-40 and averaged 5.4 runs. Phillies owner John I. Rogers thought the telegraph scheme was fair. The National League disagreed and banned its use.

The most famous sign-stealing scheme in history was implemented by the 1951 New York Giants, who used an outfield scoreboard system to steal signs on their way to overcoming a mid-August, 13-game deficit to the Brooklyn Dodgers by going 39-8 in their final 48 games.

Those infractions went unpunished. Manfred, however, made it clear in recent seasons that the use of in-game technology was strictly prohibited for stealing signs and he revealed Monday exactly how much he meant what he said. He should have done even more by stripping the Astros of their World Series title.


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1  seeder  JohnRussell    9 months ago

The Houston Astros were taking information from a long distance camera shot of the catchers signals, and relaying it to the batter through a code conveyed by banging on a trash can as close as possible to the batters box. 

Given how much modern day baseball announcers emphasize the cat and mouse strategy between pitchers and batters, and the pitchers need to fool the batter, the fact that Houston was letting the batter know what pitch was coming is not a small thing. 

Maybe the biggest cheating scandal in baseball since the "Black Sox" in 1918.

Of course, back then the entire nation cared.  That is not the case 100 years later. 

1.1  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  JohnRussell @1    9 months ago

correction : Black Sox scandal was 1919. 

2  Ender    9 months ago

But the Patriots get away with it...Haha

3  Tacos!    9 months ago

If they had any integrity at all, the Astros would relinquish the title. I’m not saying give it to the Dodgers. We just won’t have a winner for that year. What a disgrace!

Vic Eldred
4  Vic Eldred    9 months ago

I hate to admit it, but Alex Cora has a lot to do with this and he's been at it for a long time.

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5      9 months ago

How the hell do the players involved with the cheating get away scot-free? I guess its a lot cheaper to fire a manager and general manager than it is to replace your entire ball club.

Justin Verlander had a big problem with sign-stealing before he joined the Astros. Hundreds of times Verlander has spoken out against the problems in baseball, why is remaining silent on this? we can only surmise he has been quiet in this case because it benefited him.

Larry Hampton
5.1  Larry Hampton  replied to  @5    9 months ago


5.2  Tacos!  replied to  @5    9 months ago
How the hell do the players involved with the cheating get away scot-free?

They have a union. Any time there is disciplinary action against a player, there is an appeal process, sometimes they end up in court and the crap can go on for a long time. Now multiply that by 40 players on a playoff roster. It's not worth the trouble.

6  GregTx    9 months ago

My question is why is the MLB still using 19th century hand signals in the 21st century?

Larry Hampton
6.1  Larry Hampton  replied to  GregTx @6    9 months ago

How else is a person gonna do it?

6.1.1  GregTx  replied to  Larry Hampton @6.1    9 months ago

With a transmitter/receiver.

Sean Treacy
7  Sean Treacy    9 months ago

Stripping past titles is pretty meaningless. The titles have been won on the field and celebrated. Players and fans will always celebrate the championship whatever edits are made to some record book. 

Larry Hampton
7.1  Larry Hampton  replied to  Sean Treacy @7    9 months ago

Yup. It’s perhaps historically significant; but, that’s about it.  

7.2  Tacos!  replied to  Sean Treacy @7    9 months ago

It's stolen valor.


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