Jan 15, 2020
“Say it ain’t so George, Alex and Jose …”
NOTE: “Say it ain’t so, Shoeless Joe” is one of THE most (in)famous lines in Baseball. Supposedly said to Chicago “Black Sox” star player “Shoeless Joe” Jackson by a young disbelieving fan in the wake of the 1916 “Black Sox” Cheating Scandal.
“Shoeless Joe” was never personally linked to the “cheating” but is forever associated with the scandal. It is why “Shoeless Joe” (Ray Liotta) walked out of that Iowa cornfield in Field Of Dreams.
The 2017 World Series between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers may have been THE most exciting sports series I’ve ever watched. The Astros won in seven games with each game being “a Humdinger”.
I had no “my team” involved, but came to really like three Astros players – George Springer, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve. They exhibited all the qualities I look for in “favorite players” and all three were elevated to BobLee’s Top Ten Favorite Players.
I’m going to assume you are aware to some extent of the MEGA KABOOM that hit Malor League Baseball on Monday. The shock waves of which are still reverberating across MLB. It IS “A Big Deal” whether you care about MLB or not.
The Houston Astros were found guilty of an elaborate “signs stealing scheme” during the 2017 season. As a result the Astros owner Jim Crane has fired their General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager AJ Hinch … and the Boston Red Sox have fired their Manager – Alex Cora – who was the mastermind of the Astros cheating scheme. The New York Mets “might” (should) end up firing their Manager Carlos Beltran who was Cora’s henchman at Houston.
“Cheating In Sports” … OMG OMG OMG. Whats next BobLee? Are you going to tell us that … all the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders are not virgins. … Dean and Roy did not know about The Elaborate AfAm Studies Eigibility Scam … Mark Gottfried did not know about the $40K to Dennis Smith … Tom Brady did not tell the equipment guy to deflate the footballs … etc etc etc ad infinitum. Bill Clinton “did not have sex with that woman” … and Joe Biden had no idea his son was getting millions from the Ukraine oil scam. … OK… point taken.
Only the most terminally naive believe that “sports” is any different than “politics” or any other human endeavors. In any endeavor in which an advantage can be gained by skirting or outright breaking existing “rules” governing said endeavors, there will be humans who will seize that advantage.
While most of us do realize that… many among us choose to believe that “our team” … “our school” … “our politicians” … “our …” DO NOT break rules… because we want to believe that they don’t. When all we know about them is seeing them perform.
When the evidence is undeniable that “our team” / “our school” / “our …” is indeed guilty… some of “we” shift to “… But Everybody Does It”. The abject “cheating” in college recruiting almost justifies that retort.
There are sayings relative to the SEC… “it ain’t cheating unless they catch you.” and “If you ain’t cheating you don’t want to win bad enough”. There are lunatic fans who tout such attitudes with a sense of “pride” … sigh.
EVERYBODY DOES NOT… Do what The Astros were doing. Without going too deep “inside baseball”, “stealing signs” has gone on within baseball for many years… BY UNIFORM PLAYERS within the context of the game. By a runner on second base who can see the catcher flashing his signs … by a base coach who might see a catchers signs… or even someone in the dugout who sees that a pitcher is “tipping his pitches” through some quirk in his set-up / delivery.
Those methods are understood by everyone in the game. Catchers change signs with a runner on 2nd. Everyone studies video before/after games to detect clues that might be an advantage.
For an MLB better to know whether a pitcher is going to throw a fastball, a breaking ball or a change-up is a BIG ADVANTAGE. Equate it to Football and knowing if a team is going to pass or run. The margin of error between success and failure in the duel between Pitcher and Batter in MLB is infinitesimal.
What the Astros were doing was using a camera in centerfield to see the catcher’s signs… transmit that info immediately to a monitor in the dugout where a team employee would alert the batter to the upcoming pitch via banging on a trash can. All of which took place within a 5 second time frame.
You are the Astros batter… you hear the bang on the can… you immediately know the incoming pitch will be a fastball … or whatever the code is. That might seem silly to you without in-depth knowledge of the intrcacies of baseball but it IS an unfair / illegal advantage.
There have been cases in baseball before of a team employee with binoculars in centerfield transmitting knowledge via a phone / 2-wat radio to the dugout… also specifically illegal.
The use of “technology” during a game outside the normal confines of “the game” is specifically outlawed in MLB. What the Astros were doing – and it has been proven they were doing it over a season / post-season – was ILLEGAL… PERIOD.
EVERYONE on the Astros roster and/or with access to the dugout KNEW THE CHEATING WAS TAKING PLACE. The players and coaches in uniform… trainers, equipment guys, et al.
Did the GM know?… Yes, he did. Did the intern in VIP Guest Services know? Probably not.
The Astros now-fired manager – AJ Hinch – hems haws he did not condone “it” but did nothing to stop it. BS.
Coach Alex Cora and player Carlos Beltran set up the system and implemented it … “My Favorite Players –George Springer, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve all knew exacty what was gong on and that it specially violated MLB Rules.
THIS is different from “a Gaylord Perry spitball” or “a Sammy Sosa corked bat” or even PEDs. This was “a well-organized baseball crime” committed by an organization.
No Astros player has made any public statement since this story broke Monday afternoon. They will eventually have to… Will they plead “mea culpa” or use weasel words?
There is a standing joke in the septic tank of College Basketball that when illegalities are discovered they are blamed on an assistant coach and the Head Coach escapes culpability. BS. An MLB manager is responsible for ANYTHING the goes on in his dugout and his clubhouse. A Head Coach is accountable for his staff’s actions.
A manager / head cach may NOT be aware of what a player is doing apart from the game …. beating up his girlfriend … smoking dope … betting … even taking PEDs … but what goes on in the dugout and clubhouse is his responsibility and cannot be laid off on anyone else.
The integrity of the Astros owner has been questioned in recent years. Is Jim Crane “a bad guy”? The General Manager is not well-liked around MLB … but the Manager WAS popular. That the owner – Jim Crane – immediately fired the GM and Manager when the MLB Commissioner’s Report was issues on Tuesday … and Boston fired Aex Cora within 24 hours is unprecedented and “amirable”.
No penalties are expected for any players. It was a former Astros player that was the “whistleblower” who alerted MLB to what was going on… but all the Astros team knew it was going on.
Fan reaction by Astro fans and fans across MLB will cover the extremes of the spectrum. As “fan reaction” always does.
“Take away their 2017 World Series Championship”… “make them give back their rings” … “ban them from Baseball” … as well as “What’s the big deal… everybody does it…”
Equating outstanding sports skills with outstanding character virtues is a common mistake fans are always making.
He is on “our team”… and he is “very good player” therefore he must be an outstanding individual with an abundance of personal integrity “because” …
What we are learning about the Astros will not change that knee-jerk assumption. … sigh.
There are lessona to be learned here by all involved… including by “fans”.