This past week, the Houston Astros and Major League Baseball broke the internet. In one of the craziest weeks seen in recent sports history, not only did the commissioner’s office bring a mighty fist down onto the Houston Astros organization, but three managers and a general manager also lost their jobs.
Yes, the Astros were hurt by this. Not only did they have to pay a $5 million fine, but they were stripped of their first and second round draft picks for the 2020 and 2021 drafts and manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for the 2020 season. At a press conference an hour later, owner Jim Crane fired both of them. It might seem harsh, but for what they did they deserve more. They hurt lots of other people too.
The day after the punishments broke, the Boston Red Sox fired their manager, Alex Cora, for his involvement in the scandal, and the New York Mets let go of Carlos Beltran before he ever managed a game for the organization. Cora, as the Astros bench coach, and Beltran, as a veteran presence in the last year of his illustrious, Hall of Fame career, spearheaded the cheating tactics, relaying signs to players at the plate.
Considering the shockwaves sent throughout the baseball world by the Astros unruliness during their 2017 World Series run, a $5 million fine to an owner with a net worth of $2.5 billion and trading four draft picks and two employees for a pennant and a championship is a trade most owners around the MLB would make nine out of 10 times. Of course, the $5 million is the maximum a team can be fined under the MLB Constitution, but that was a document drafted in 1921, a time when monetary value was much different than it is today. The repercussions mean very little, an idea that angers most other league officials.
Rob Manfred gave the impression to owners around the league in a conference call that the punishment given would be much more severe than what was given. Of course, the consequences for Cora haven’t been announced, but what the Astros were given is already much smaller in scope than at first imagined. Players on the 1919 Chicago White Sox cheated in the World Series and eight players got banned for life. Players on the 2017 Houston Astros cheated in the World Series and the manager and general manager got fired. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, an unnamed team owner went on to say, “Crane won. The entire thing was programmed to protect the future of the franchise. He got his championship. He keeps his team. His fine is nothing. The sport lost, but Crane won.”
What trust does Manfred have left with the rest of the owners?
The true criminals got off scot-free. Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer and the gang keep their championship, keep their money, and come into 2020 as virtually the same team that won the 2019 American League minus Gerrit Cole. Sure, Rob Manfred wanted to avoid a debacle with the MLBPA, but what will players learn from this? That they can cheat and not face any kind of penalty?
The fans lost, too. Baseball has gone from the pure, American game, to a stain on the sports world. Baseball was the gentleman’s game in a country that’s dominated by the violent, barbaric sport of football. Gone, at least for the time being, is the title of America’s pastime. Thanks to the Astros, baseball is nothing for Americans to pride themselves on and is a black mark on the sports world. The Houston Astros have hurt the rest of the sport more than they hurt themselves.
Brendan Balsamo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @BrendanBal.