In 2019 the Major League Baseball association found the Houston Astros organization guilty of stealing signs on their way to a 2017 World Series championship run. Nearly two years after the incidents, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic were the first to report the incriminating findings. To add to the drama, The Athletic is actually located in San Francisco, California, which is 300 miles from the location of the losing team in that World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The evidence exposed by former Astros pitcher, Mike Fiers, explained that the organization had used cameras to track pitches from the pitcher’s mound to the plate. Then whether these pitches were fastballs or off-speed pitches determined how many times Astros players in the dugout would pound on a trash can to alert the batter of the incoming pitch.
Sign stealing is not inherently in the “illegal” in Major League Baseball. However, in 2019 the Boston Red Sox were issued a warning after using smartwatches to steal signs. The warning was said to bring severe punishment to the next group found guilty of sign stealing. Punishment was only issued to Astros management. GM Jeff Luhnow and team manager A.J. Hinch were suspended for the entire 2020 season and eventually Red Sox manager and former Astros manager Alex Cora resigned. While the Astros organization was only fined $5 million and draft picks in the next two drafts.
The ethics behind sign stealing has caused divide between baseball fans, some even calling for the Astros World Series title to be revoked. JBU Management major and Houston native, Jack Stockton, believes the Astros still deserve to be world champions. “The Astros are my team. I’ve been to at least a game every year for as long as I can remember. Just as baseball runs through my blood so do the Astros,” Stockton said.
“I believe the Astros are guilty for what they were accused of, even though it’s not specifically stated it was still wrong of them to do. Many people don’t know that the Astros tied for the best record on the road of any team in the MLB in 2017,” he said. “The sign stealing only occurred during home games. Many may think to put an asterisk besides the 2017 World Champion Astros, however in my heart I know that they fully deserved that win.
JBU Finance major Harrison Kretzer believes the MLB’s punishment was severe, yet fair. “The Astros had one of the best winning percentages in the last 10 years, incredible pitching, incredible hitting, they really didn’t even need to cheat to do that,” said Kretzer. “I think the punishment for the management was fair, and I’m glad the MLB didn’t come down on the players because it wasn’t on them.”
“The team still deserves the World Series win,” he said. “Even though the management decisions might not point to that, the players deserve it. Plus, how could you say that the Dodgers could’ve lost even without the Astros sign stealing.:
The biggest issue remains whether convicted cheaters deserve the right to be called world champions. It is the MLB’s job to look into the issue and see how we can further monitor cheating among sports whether it is “ethical cheating,” like sign stealing, to performance enhancing drugs, all sports organizations can look to examples like the Astros to ensure a better and safer sports atmosphere for years to come.
Photo courtesy of Ty Welch