Written by Darcy Waskiewics, Sports Editor
It is safe to say the MLB off-season has been wild. In between a spiral of trade rumors and free-agent signings, one issue has risen throughout Major League Baseball that has controlled the media talks for the past few weeks – the Houston Astros were caught illegally stealing pitching signs in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
A few months ago, rumors arose about the Houston Astros stealing pitching signs through the use of illegal cameras. Pitching signs are the hand motions the catcher makes to the pitcher on the mound to communicate which pitch would be best to beat the opposing batter. People on the internet were the first to catch on to indications that the Astros were cheating during their 2017 season. Videos and posts went viral of banging noises coming from the Houston dugout whenever one of their players was up to bat. These bangs were in a certain order and right before the opposing pitcher released the pitch to the Houston batter.
Around the same time, former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers announced that the Astros were using illegal cameras in the outfield to see the signs that the catcher. The cameras sent the video feed to screens in the dugout, which was used to communicate the signs to the batter through a series of banging noises.
Major League Baseball investigated those allegations and found them to be true. The Houston Astros cheated during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, seasons that ended with a World Series win in 2017 and a loss to the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship in 2018. The Houston Astros have been a dominant team for the past few years, hitting 100 wins in their past three seasons. But how much of their success in 2017 and 2018 was from the pure talent the team possesses and how much was a result of their cheating?
The Houston Astros team contains some of the best players in the league. The Astros’ offense is led by young third-baseman Alex Bregman, a two-time All-Star who led the team in home runs with 31 in 2018 and 41 in 2019. Along with him is six-time All-Star second-baseman Jose Altuve, who was the American League MVP for the 2017 season, and three-time All-Star right fielder George Springer. And, on the mound, the team is led by veteran pitcher Justin Verlander, an eight-time All-Star. The Astros are loaded with talent. And while that has had a large impact on their success in the past years, it is easy to wonder what part the scandal has had in their success.
So, what does this mean for the league?
Since the MLB’s discoveries were brought into the light, steps have already been taken around the league to remediate any connections that have been made between the scandal and people around the league. When the MLB first declared their findings, Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for the entire 2020 season, and the Astros organization was fined $5 million and forced to give up their first- and second-round draft picks for the 2020 and 2021 draft. Following the suspension, the Astros announced that Hinch and Luhnow were fired from the organization.
Not long after that, Red Sox manager Alex Cora was fired from his position due to his involvement in the scandal. Cora was a bench coach for the Astros in 2017 and was revealed to have helped create the sign-stealing plan. The MLB is currently looking into any allegations surrounding the 2018 Boston Red Sox. Along with Cora, Carlos Beltrán, the brand-new manager of the New York Mets, decided to step down from his position due to his now-public involvement with the scandal.
The scandal does not only impact individuals throughout the league, but entire teams as well. In 2017, the Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers to claim their first World Series title. The Dodgers led the league with 104 wins, while the Astros followed closely with 101 wins, so the match-up was highly anticipated to be entertaining. The series was exactly that. After six close games, the series went to a tie-breaking game seven in a best-of-seven series that ended with a 5-1 Astros win. But now that the scandal has been investigated and the allegations have been proven, what does this mean for the Los Angeles Dodgers?
The Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since 1998. The team has been close to a dynasty in the past decade but have not been able to claim the thing that would truly cement their legacy – a World Series title. Winning the World Series in 2017 could have changed the past few seasons for the Dodgers. It could have changed the whole dynamic of the team and pushed them to win another title. But, instead, the team lost to the Astros, and then again to the Boston Red Sox the next year.
It is hard to imagine how things may have been different if the Astros hadn’t used the illegal cameras. The Astros are an outstanding team with a talented roster, so it is very likely that the team would have powered through the regular season and playoffs to win a World Series title in 2017 no matter what.
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the subject. But one thing that is for certain is that things are changing around the MLB. The league is cracking down and investigating all throughout the league. With three managers already out of a job and more investigations taking place, this scandal will have a large impact on the upcoming 2020 MLB season.