An Asterisk for the Astros

Baseball fans around the world are outraged by the electronic sign-stealing scandal perpetrated by 2017 World Series Champions, the Houston Astros. Because the Astros clearly broke the rules by continuously using hidden cameras in the outfield to cut corners in the game, their World Series title must be removed. 

Sign stealing is when players manually attempt to decode the signs that the opposing team’s catcher uses to communicate to the pitcher which type of pitch should be thrown next. Oftentimes, knowing what each gesture signifies gives the batter a higher advantage over the pitcher since they can easily predict how to attack the upcoming pitch.  

While sign stealing is a long-standing practice in baseball history according to the Washington Post, the Major League Baseball (MLB) rulebook states that “stealing signs using camera, binoculars or other foreign objects to the game is illegal.” 

Following the confession of this scandal by former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, the MLB took charge. The consequences involved firing Astros managers A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow. The MLB also stripped the Astros of first and second round selections in the 2020 and 2021 drafts and charged the Astros franchise $5 million. 

While these punishments inflicted damage on the Astros franchise, one thing is evident: the Astros cheated their way to the top repeatedly, so they must be stripped of their World Series title. 

The Astros strikeout rate decreased dramatically from 2016 to 2017 when non-pitchers struck out in 23.4 percent of their plate appearances in comparison to 17.2 percent in 2017 according to MLB statistics. When looking at these statistics, it is important to note that the Astros’ use of hidden cameras to record signs occurred repeatedly.

The concept is fairly simple; the World Series title rewards the best performing team in the MLB. Since the Astros continuously used illegal practices to build success, the team is not deserving of such a prestigious title. 

This is similar to a situation dating back to the 2000 Summer Olympics, when cyclist Lance Armstrong was stripped of seven of his Tour de France titles by the International Cycling Union upon the discovery that he was guilty of doping. This scenario provides enough of a historical precedent to indicate that those who use cheating as a method to achieve success are undeserving of any awards or titles that come with it. 

“It doesn’t take a philosopher to know that if you cheat to win, you’re not really a winner,” CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Travis Tygart said. 

Failure to strip the Astros of their title as a punishment for their actions could perpetuate a culture of cheating, especially for young athletes. Taking away the World Series title would ultimately send an official message demonstrating to all generations of baseball fans that cheating on any level will never be tolerated.