Roger Marolt: Bang the trashcan slowly
I love baseball. I am not watching the World Series. The Houston Astros make me sick.
Tell me you have not forgotten the Astros’ massive cheating scandal that evidence suggests infected the 2016 through 2019 baseball seasons, the nefarious farce as awful as the Chicago Black Socks throwing the 1919 World Series to the gamblers, the fraud that damaged the integrity of the game more than rampant steroid abuse. I haven’t.
They got caught. They admitted cheating. But, they never owned it. They act like victims. They curse fans who justifiably boo them. Where they should have forfeited their championship rings, they caress them as hard earned pirates’ plunder. They carry on as if they deserved to cheat us.
Major League Baseball booted an easy out. On top of imposing a penalty that fits the crime like a beer can koozy fits a keg, they haven’t considered that recent dwindling of fan interest began in earnest about the time rumors of the Astros astronomical cheating efforts began circulating. While they consider tweaking sacrosanct rules in a game that stands on tradition in order to speed up games, they might be better served to restore integrity.
The Astros used technology to defraud. It was a scheme intricately planned. It had complete buy-in throughout the organization. It not only brought them a World Series trophy that rightfully belonged to the Dodgers or Yankees, it caused important individual League awards to fall undeservingly into Astros’ dirty double-crossing fingers. It cost honest players performance bonuses. One pitcher lost his job after performing poorly against the Astros.
Worst of all, the results of at least two Major League seasons are not legitimate, throwing fans’ emotional investment into leisure time bankruptcy. What we watched was a dupe. The results were adulterated. In 2017, the best team did not win The Commissioner’s trophy. It is tarnish that can’t be polished away —the Astros wasted our time.
There is a nagging thought, too, that will fester as long as the players involved are still playing. Their shenanigans must have affected big time gamblers’ results. Imagine thugs, who lost huge money because of the cheat, showing up after midnight suggesting the Astros make things right now. Can fans trust that errant throws or strikeouts at the plate in any games the corrupt players participate in, with the Astros or new teams they end up on, are just part of the game or are they deliberate attempts to influence the over/under or point spread?
The Astros were caught, the scam was investigated, and punishment rendered. Why can’t we just move on?
There are two reasons: First, the punishment was actually a reward. Second, the Astros haven’t let it go, so I am happy to oblige them in the vow to never forget.
Let me summarize the Astros’ punishment for the most disgraceful cheating scandal in sports history (go ahead, name one worse):
• They got fined $5 million.
• They lost first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.
• Their manager and general manager got fired.
There is no deterrent here. Every year teams fire managers and spend hundreds of millions and give up handfuls of draft picks to acquire players they think will help them win. The Astros gave up a paltry $5 million for an electronic 10th man with the laser vision of a center field spy camera, a brain that can solve pitch signal algorithms in nanoseconds, and a digital dog whistle to let players know what pitch is coming their way. And, the $5 million doesn’t even count against the salary cap! The commissioner’s office allowed the Astros to steal a championship for what it would roughly cost to sign a high school prospect drafted in the third round.
I will let this go as soon as the Astros quit pretending like the wining season they had this year proves they didn’t need to cheat in 2017 and, so, they were the legitimate World Series champs after all. Vindication? Not so fast boys. The only way to prove that you could have won the 2017 World Series without cheating would have been to actually win it without cheating. Your speculation looks like tobacco spit drooled down the front of your jersey.
The Astros cheating scandal may well be emblematic of a sweeping national change in attitude that revealed itself stunningly in the 2016 election cycle that elevated lying, cheating, and disrespect for revered institutions to acceptability. Maybe the timing is coincidence. Maybe it’s not. Either way, I am tired of it. Is a broken heart a legitimate illness?
Roger Marolt knows the owners of the Astros were cleared of having involvement with the cheating scandal, but he also notes they never seemed too sad about it, either. firstname.lastname@example.org
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