The Kingston Trio told us the sad tale of Charlie on the MTA; he was “the man who never returned”. Now, we seem to have a sports story that is just the opposite; every time I turn around, there it is again. I am tempted to nickname the story “Whoot” because “there … it … is.”
Of course, I mean the sign-stealing saga in MLB. I am beginning to believe that this opera is going to be with us for an entire MLB season before someone somewhere finds that magical silver bullet that will lay it to rest. When the story first broke, it seemed like one where there were good guys in white hats and bad guys wearing Astros’ baseball caps. Would that it were so simple…
Now that teams have assembled in Florida and Arizona for Spring Training, we face an interesting good news/bad news situation:
- Good News: People covering teams in Spring Training have something else to write about other than who showed up in great shape and who is working hard to make the team and who is hoping that a new team will provide him with a new start to his career. Those cookie-cutter fluff pieces have been noticeably absent so far.
- Bad News: Everyone is asking every player in Spring Training what they think of what the Astros did. Seriously, does anyone expect an opposing player to think it was a good deed? What we have is a novel format for what has become a “Spring Training staple”. It is already boring…
Recall back in the days when steroids were abundant in MLB locker rooms and the reporters covering the teams never asked about them or even alluded to their possible existence. Many of those same reporters – and their successors in many circumstances – are pussy-footing around tough questions for opposing players who voice strong and unequivocal positions on this matter. Let’s review the bidding:
- Reports say that the Astros’ behaviors were an open secret around MLB and that more than a couple of opponents took note of trashcan banging and “coded whistling”. That dates back at least to the 2017 season – and maybe further back just in the Astros’ case.
- Question: So, how come you said nothing about the matter for 3 years if indeed what was done was so horrific?
- We’ve heard players say the Astros players “need a beating” and some have called for banishments; yet, for 3 years there was acknowledgement/acceptance of what was going on. The Washington Nationals – a team in the other league – were so concerned about sign stealing in the 2019 World Series that they devised a complicated encoding system of their own to combat what they perceived as a “clear and present danger”.
- Question: Given that level of anger and the recognition the cheating might be ongoing, how come everyone kept this quiet? Where were these “bold voices” for the last 3 years? Why should they be given such credence and prominence now when their silence aided in perpetuating the scheme?
There are lots of people calling for greater punishments from the Commish in this matter. As I have said here before, you can ding the Commish for trading immunity for information in the MLB investigation if you like. That does not change the fact that he gave such a guarantee; and now that it is a given, he must not renege on it. So, what might he do for “added punishments”? Here are three things that come to mind:
- Suspend Astros’ owner Jim Crane for at least 1 year. Even if he was as pure as the driven snow when it comes to the cheating mechanics in use, he should be suspended for handling the orchestrated Astros’ Mea Culpa! event with all the grace and aplomb of a sack of wet goat shit.
- Double the share of the gate that goes to visiting teams in Houston for the next 2 years. This hits the Astros in the pocketbook over and above the $5M fine it already received which is the largest direct fine that can be levied by the Commissioner under MLB’s Bylaws.
- All members of the Astros 2017 roster will not receive any of the playoff shares awarded to winning teams for the next 5 years. Playoff shares go to the teams and the teams then decide how to divide them up. Players who got playoff and World Series shares in 2017 did so under “clouded circumstances” and they should therefore not be eligible for any such shares for a time in the future. If the Red Sox investigation shows similar irregularities in the 2018 playoffs and World Series, the same should apply to the Red Sox roster from 2018.
It will be interesting times in the offices of the MLBPA if the Commish decides to add some sort of punishment to players on the Astros or Red Sox. The union must fight to protect its members on those two teams to assure that all is done in accordance with the CBA; if the union does not do that, there really isn’t much purpose for a union. At the same time, there are other members of that same union who are calling for those added punishments – including suggestions that the Astros “need a beating”. How might the execs in the MLBPA choose to represent those other members calling for retribution against their union brothers?
Finally, it was no great surprise to find this item in Dwight Parry’s Sideline Chatter column in the Seattle Times:
“When it comes to baseball lexicon, the Astros’ trash-can antics certainly give ‘bang-bang play’ a whole new meaning.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………