Astros Have Already Struck Out

The baseball world was hit with a major, yet unsurprising story in November 2019 when former Houston Astros pitcher Mike Fiers told “The Athletic” about how the Astros used technology to film and steal signs electronically, giving their batters advantages against pitchers and clearly breaking the guidelines stated in the Major League Baseball (MLB) rulebook. With the details of the controversy settled and the extensive, record-breaking punishment laid down by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, no further repercussions are needed for the Astros.

Sign stealing has become a staple of the game, a strategic way for players and managers to figure out what pitch is being communicated between the pitcher and the catcher in order to give the batter an advantage. However, this takes a turn when the signs are being stolen through the utilization of technology, something that is explicitly not allowed according to the MLB’s rulebook.

Controversies regarding technology used in stealing signs began in 2017 when the MLB reprimanded and punished the Boston Red Sox for using Apple Watches to steal and record signs. While the MLB fined the Red Sox an undisclosed amount and warned teams to not engage in similar action, the Astros still clearly violated these rules. 

In stark contrast to the Red Sox, the actions taken against the Astros included the year-long suspension of their managers, a $5 million fine (the maximum amount allowed) and forfeiture of their top draft picks in the upcoming two years. These penalties not only provide a strong blow against the team but also serve as sufficient warning against future actions.

With more issues emerging regarding the Red Sox and their 2018 World Series pennant, there have been a lot of calls for more considerable action including titles of both the Astros and Red Sox being taken away. While the investigation into the Red Sox is ongoing and will conclude within the upcoming weeks, giving the title to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who fell short in the World Series against both teams is taking a leap in the power of the MLB and its commissioner. 

Stripping the title is an unprecedented punishment in any of the major American sports leagues and can serve as a large detriment to not only the history of the MLB, but also the validity of the league. Regardless as to whether cheating may or may not have played a role or been the deciding factor within the Astros win, it happened and they won. 

It is up to the fans to understand that until the MLB takes more definitive actions to prevent similar scandals from occurring in the future, including potentially restricting technology around the game, we must simply remember that the Astros will forever have the 2017 title marred by the question of whether cheating was the only reason they emerged victorious.