By Jacob Malik
Baseball fans, players, executives and owners are only among some of those who are astonished about the ongoing Houston Astros cheating scandal. The Houston Astros, one of baseball's best teams over the past few years, having already been found guilty of cheating in 2017, have been accused of cheating again during the 2017-2019 season.
The accusation, which has been recently investigated, includes stealing opposing pitchers’ signs, which ultimately means that at any given moment the Astros would be able to know what pitch would be coming. While they were not found guilty of cheating in 2019, many players and coaches in the league are still suspicious of their actions.
The accusations say that the Astros had cameras set up in center field so they could see the sign during the pitcher and catcher exchange and then could figure out what pitch corresponded to that sign. It was reported that they would then relay this information to the batter who was at the plate, so they knew exactly what pitch was coming.
They were proven to be doing this by having monitors in the hallway between the dugout and the locker room. The person watching was reported to have then relayed the information to the batter by banging on a trash can. The batter would then hear this noise and could prepare for the incoming pitch.
Following the investigation, once the Astros were found guilty, they were penalized. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred suspended general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for one year, took away the organization’s first- and second-round draft picks for 2020 and 2021 and fined them $5 million. Hinch would be fired shortly after, but what is truly shocking is that the players were granted immunity in exchange for an honest testimony about what transpired.
The Astros have also been accused of upgrading their means of cheating, such as going from garbage cans to things such as electronic buzzers on the players chests. However, following an investigation by commissioner Manfred, no evidence was found of this and the team was found not guilty.
There is plenty of suspicion about the Astros using buzzers in a significant game with high stakes. In 2019, José Altuve of the Astros hit a home run in the sixth game of the ALCS that would send the Astros to the world series. When rounding third and crossing home plate to greet his excited teammates, Altuve held his jersey and made it clear he did not want it to be ripped off.
Via a post game interview with Ken Rosenthal, “I don’t know,” Altuve said. “I’m too shy, last time they did that, I got in trouble with my wife.”
Many fans and players find this quite odd, especially since Altuve has posted shirtless pictures all over social media. Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez commented on Altuve’s rebuttal via Lindsey Adler on Twitter, saying “If I hit a homer and get my team to the World Series, they can rip off my pants. They can rip everything off.”
Baseball fans have also shown displeasure toward the situation. One player who has been outspoken is reigning National League MVP Cody Bellinger, who told Alden Gonzalez of ESPN, "I thought the apologies were whatever. I thought Jim Crane's was weak. I thought Manfred's punishment was weak, giving 'em immunity. I mean, these guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don't realize is Altuve stole an MVP from [Aaron] Judge in ’17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us."
Bellinger is furious, and rightfully so, especially because of what has happened to those who have cheated in the past. In 1919, The Chicago White Sox, also known as “The Black Sox,” were involved in a scandal of equally high proportions. The team was accused of intentionally losing games during the World Series because players had gambled on the games, betting that they would lose. There were eight players involved in the scandal, all of which were banned from baseball for life.
To put this in perspective, the 1919 Black Sox intentionally lost games. The players did not cheat to win games, which is what the Astros have been accused of, and the outcome resulted in eight players being banned for life. Yet the Astros’ outcome will yield no punishment for any players whatsoever.
While commissioner Manfred won’t strip the Astros of their 2017 title, this scandal will forever tarnish the game of baseball, putting any success the Astros organization has had in question for years to come.