“Baseball’s Black Eye”
First it was the 1919 Black Sox scandal, the throwing of the White-Sox-Reds World Series.
Dodgers manager Leo Durocher was suspended for a year for associations with known gamblers.
Then it was Reds manager Pete Rose betting on baseball games with underworld figures while he was still in the Cincinnati dugout.
We waded thru the sludge of the steroid scandal that strained the baseball record book, from Mark McGuire thru Ryan Braun, to Alex Rodriguez and a whole host of other cheats. It took the Congressional hearings to bring the slime into the spotlight.
Then came the imprisonment of a Cardinals executive for hacking the scouting computers of another team to steal contract information and injury reports. That led to a lifetime ban for what he tried to do to acess how, oddly enough, the Astros were doing business.
And the lifetime ban for the Atlanta Braves General Manager for his part in a kickback scheme with signing bonus money for Latin American talent, smuggled into countries by underworld figures toting guns and getting a payoff.
Now it’s the sign stealing scandal that has led to the purge of all the key baseball executives in the Houston Astros organization.
And in all likelihood, it is not over. If sign stealing with electronics, centerfield cameras, walkie talkies or Apple watches was happening in one city, it probably was happening elsewhere.
The Astros were the first to get caught, the Red Sox might be next, and who knows after that.
At 10am on Monday, MLB dropped the hammer on the Astros, denting the World Series trophy they won, and staining the franchise’s reputation.
At 11am, the owner fired his General Manager and his Manager for their knowledge, their consent, their lack of leadership for not stopping the cheating scandal. Enraged even more, they violated an MLB memo issued all the way back in 2017 about use of electronics to steal signs, then continued to do it in both ’17 and ’18. The commissioners office had issued a 6-page guideline, then followed with another directive a year later. Houston didn’t care, they went ahead and did more.
Stats show, in the World Series against the Dodgers, and in the postseason in 2017, they went (8-1) at home with a (.273) batting average, lighting cup both Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen. On the road, (3-6) and a (.208) average. Connect the dots?
GM-Jeff Luhnow testified to Commissioner Rob Manfred he had no knowledge of what was happening in the video replay room, in the tunnel, in the teams dugout. Hard to believe that, for someone who is so hands on in every aspect of the game.
Manager AJ Hinch was jettisoned too, for knowing about the scandal, but not stopping it for a two year span of lots of wins at Minute Maid Park.
And Alex Cora, then bench coach in Houston, now manager in Boston, is facing similar fate, for actually being the ringleader of the idea of how to steal the signs and transmit information to baserunners and batters.
And former Assistant GM Brandon Taubman, is banned for life, for his role in this, and an ugly confrontation with female reporters during the postseason.
On top of the sanctions came the Commissioner’s condemnation of the culture of Astros baseball, their treatment of their own people within the front office, the disdain for rules, and its combat with the media.
Shocking if you know people like Hinch and Cora, as I do. Hinch, a standup guy, makes you wonder how-why he did not put a stop to it and go to management about what had happened. He always looked you directly in the eye when he answered your questions. I wonder how the look is today.
And Cora, an emotional and proud leader, who spoke out so strong about his earthquake devastated countries in Latin America and led financial drives to help out the needy. A great philanthropist now viewed as a multi-year cheat. Guess we should have looked under his fingernails for where he had been what he had done.
The reaction was swift from opposing players. “Steal signs-get fired, but use steroids get millions?” Another tweeted “Astros players have no conscience”. A third added “Should take away their rings.”
From within the Astros offices at Minute Maid Park came denials and non denials. Owner Jim Crane said “This does not taint our World Series wings”. Luhnow blamed other, writing “I am not a cheater, I did not know, this all came from players and lower level employees”. Only Hinch was a standup guy, “I regret being connected-I failed”.
It’s not over for sure. The next dark day will be in Boston, and I am not talking about the weather either.
Baseball’s black eye, sure to spread, before the healing starts.