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Dodgers: Did the Astros Get What They Deserved for Cheating?

Well, it finally happened. After two whole months of trash can memes, apologies to Yu Darvish, painful flashbacks to the 2017 World Series, and more, MLB has finally handed down its punishment to the Houston Astros. In addition to losing first and second round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts and a $5 million fine, general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were suspended for a year. Unsurprisingly, they were both fired immediately by owner Jim Crane.

This much we know.

Now, MLB Twitter has largely decried the punishment as too lenient, albeit with a comparable portion saying it was harsh enough. For the latter case, losing both a manager and GM changes the complexion of the franchise drastically, and leaves a lingering stain that will take a long time to cleanse. 

Ultimately, however, I do think it’s fair to say it didn’t go far enough. And as we see above, nearly 80% of the voting fan base agrees. This is a scandal that tarnishes the game on an even grander scale than the Black Sox and Pete Rose, both of which were met with lifetime bans. Thus, it deserved something even bigger

Here are some reactions from our Dodgers Nation Twitter account to the above poll.

So what should MLB have also done to really bring the Astros to heel? There are a few areas where I believe more could have been handed down.  

Let me get one thing out of the way: The Astros should not have had their title stripped. I went back and forth on this for months. Initially I was against it, then swung the opposite way and advocated for it. Eventually, I came to the realization that it’s a bad idea. Vacating championships is more of an NCAA province, and if MLB got into the business of it, it could lead to a slippery slope of titles getting contested for any reason. (Would the 1985 Royals have their trophy scrapped for Don Denkinger’s awful call?) 

That being said, with MLB’s confirmation that the setup continued into the 2017 postseason, it is more than safe to conclude that Houston’s championship run is ill-gotten goods. Vacating a title is dubious, but a nice fat asterisk would have been warranted. It would probably be even more effective in subtly denoting that while the events still happened, they are forever tarnished by happening in an unfair playing field. 

Another possibility could have been restricting all forms of commerce with respect to the title. Winning a championship isn’t just cathartic joy and symbolic glory: it means money for whoever wins, and lots of it. The Astros have enjoyed millions in revenue in the two years since the 2017 World Series. Perhaps the team could no longer sell merchandise with the 2017 WS champion logo, or the official DVD and Blu-Ray. No anniversary reunions, and no showing the trophy at fan festivals. Let them keep the trophy and banner, but essentially rob them of all lasting value. Make them truly meaningless. 

The next is the extent of losing draft picks. In my view, it should have gone up to four years of lost picks, as well as a loss of international signing privileges. As everyone knows, the Astros built their behemoth through a grueling tank that allowed them to harvest the likes of Carlos Correa, George Springer and Alex Bergman via the draft. Thus, robbing them the chance of building the next wave would potentially destroy them. 

Most disconcerting, however, is the lack of punishment for any players. Manfred’s statement made it clear that it was a player-devised system, and yet not a single Astro hitter was slapped with a suspension or fine. How will that disincentivize Houston, and other players across the league, from carrying out similar or even worse schemes to gain an edge?  

The obvious answer to this is that the player’s union would have stepped in. This is true, but it would have at least sent a message for MLB to at least try to punish the players in the first place. I would go with fines equivalent of World Series winning shares, and 15-20 game suspensions for all active players, whether or not they’re still in Houston. 

After all, just as it is in a fair contest, it’s up to the players on the field to execute. There has been plenty of analysis to indicate that Houston’s sign-stealing scheme had a discernible impact on key offensive statistics throughout the 2017 season. This not only muddies the integrity of individual stats, team stats, regular season outcomes, and postseason outcomes. It also led to unfair results for their opponents, with some devastating consequences. 

Think of all those who were affected. First, and worst, are the young pitchers who likely had their careers ruined, being cut or demoted to the minors unfairly. Then, of course, are the potential playoff victims. Joe Girardi lost his job as Yankees manager. Yu Darvish was effectively burned at the stake in Los Angeles, and didn’t sign in free agency until February 2018 (for ostensibly less money). 

Most of all, Clayton Kershaw’s performance in game 5. It torpedoed his legacy, turning the postseason monkey on his back into King Kong. His struggles in Octobers since have reduced him to a meme. I personally savaged him as the main reason the Dodgers failed to capture the title in 2017. 

Imagine if he hadn’t been rocked. He likely not only wins a ring, but maybe even WS MVP, and his postseason struggles are purged Randy Johnson 2001-style. It is sickening to ponder all of that being denied due to such unfair circumstances. He deserved better, as did everyone who played the Astros in Houston in 2017. 

A common response to all of this rancor has been to say that 2017 is in the past. What happened, happened. That is all true. We cannot change the past, and it’s not like the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers can just get those same teams back together and play makeup games next week.  

Still, it’s safe to say that what happened, happened at least in part because of the worst kind of cheating imaginable. The essential beauty of baseball is supposed to be how clean it is. On a statistical and historical level, it doesn’t lie. Especially in the matter of who won the World Series in a given year, there is certitude with regards to who won, who lost, how it happened, the numbers that back it up, etc. Because of their illicit practices, the Astros’ sole title in their history is tarnished at best, if not outright fraudulent. The banner will fly forever, but history will not be kind to it. 

For that, Houston received a decent punishment. Losing the GM and manager once celebrated for taking them to the top is devastating, and the loss of draft picks could be lethal when paired with their depleted farm system and players likely leaving in free agency. Add an aging starting rotation, and Houston’s push to become the next dynasty could be plummeting very rapidly. 

But it wasn’t punishment enough. This cheating forever destroyed what seemed to be a great year in MLB history, tarnished its postseason, altered the lives and legacies of many players and coaches, and presently threatens the integrity of a game already beleaguered with other issues. 

It’s comforting to know the Astros will effectively pay with their reputations, and that the title they claimed at the expense of our Dodgers is now universally seen as a fraud. But the actual payment, especially to deter other teams from doing the same, came up just a bit short. 

There is one last measure that can be taken, however: Ban Alex Cora for life for his dual role in Houston and Boston. 

NEXT: Former Dodgers GM Ned Colletti “Sickened” by Astros Cheating

Written by Marshall Garvey

24 Comments

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  1. The 85 royals are your justification for not vacating the title? Nice article but that’s weak sauce aka a straw man argument, you state clearly the lives affected and that runs deep, it will forever follow players who lost, also what about Altuve’s MVP, how did cheating help him? This is a joke by MLB, Astros never won a title in my mind & Boston is also looking like they stole a title also. That’s something that damages the integrity of the game big time 2 straight cheaters keeping their ill gotten gains. It’s disgusting.

    • Good point on the 85 Royals. The counter argument had been even if Don Denkinger had made the right call, the Royals would still be in the game with only one out, bottom of the 9th, there was no telling if they would or would not have scored with one out, but the game was not over regardless of Denkinger’s call. The alternate scenario might even be more beneficial to the Royals, with one out, Todd Worrell would most likely go to his fastball against the next batter Steve Balboni (who hit 36 HRs in 1985) could have hit it out of the park. Again, we never know. But there was no cheating involved in that series, so it would be unfair to compare it to the 2017 & 2018 World Series where both Astros and Red Sox cheated.

  2. This whole thing just makes me want to withdraw. It’s too much. The fact that Kershaw could’ve changed his whole narrative and actually been World Series MVP like that’s such a huge 180 and no one would ever be able to “meme” him or troll again because he’d be a World Series mvp. It’s literally what we all dreamed for him we’ve all imagined the day where he shakes that narrative and we actually would’ve had it, it’s just crazy. Andre Eithier would’ve finally gotten his ring too. There’s no justice. It’s like the family that lost a loved one to a murderer and they finally get caught but you still lost the person forever

  3. Cheaters on steroids made MILLIONS and no one ordered them to give their $$$$ Back. Accept the fact that in Baseball if you get caught cheating you get to keep what you won by cheating!

  4. Players should have been suspended in sequence – one after the other. All playoff bonuses should have been paid back to MLB and donated to charity. The Houston Astros organization should have been required to take out a full-page ad in the 29 MLB cities – especially the LA Times – apologizing for their conduct, just as the Dodgers organization took out a full-page ad congratulating the Astros. An asterisk should be placed next to the Houston Astros name as the 2017 WS champion. Crane mentioned he was confident his team would have won the WS regardless the cheating. Really? Besides the fact the Dodgers should have been playing the Yankees, your talented group cheated during the WS and STILL had to go 7 games so am asterisk is the least they could do. As final punishment, all stadiums for Astro road games must allow recordings of banging trash can lids between pitches as a constant reminder to lastros players of the stain they left on the sport. I do hope the 29 owners collude and refuse to trade for Astros players that remain on the team from from the 2017 WS, or even sign them as FAs. It’s fun to dream.

  5. Here is a reason why the title should be vacated. The players knew they breaking the rules. They didn’t get punished individually by the commissioner for a variety of reasonable reasons. But removing the championship is a way to give them a blanket punishment that does not violate bargaining agreements or make anyone determine who were the most culpable ones. They are a team “right?” Well, the team is no longer a World Series champion and no longer are they. It’s not the same as an umpire screwing up a call. In this case, they cheated and won a very close World Series. The title should be vacated.

  6. The Astros absolutely did NOT get what they deserve. Their 2017 World Series Championship is still intact….”tainted”…..but it remains intact. These unpunished players get to “keep the ring” and hide out until Spring training. Its disgusting. I can only hope that this team issues an apology to major league baseball and our Dodgers, but I know that is not going to happen. So, I can hope that when these guys take the field they get the boos that they should have coming to them and their collective smugness is completely dissipated. In the meantime, I am sure that the Astros’ PR is (and will continue to be) working OVERTIME to help clean their soiled image and reputation. Just like the Black Sox, ‘aint nobody gonna be forgetting this one anytime soon.

  7. Although a Dodgers fan, I got to believe the rumors that cheating is a systemic problem throughout baseball. The Dodgers have even been an accused team. I’m not one to say my kids do no wrong. If we would have played better in the playoffs, the issue would be moot.

    • The Dodgers did perform during the playoffs which is what got us to the World Series. And its turned out that the “playing field” was uneven and the Astros had unfair advantage (which is the whole point.) I do not equate a runner stealing signs from second base and relaying what he has decoded to a hitter with the elaborate misuse of technology to obtain information and banging on trash cans to relay information to a hitter. If everyone is doing something like the latter then the “playing field” would, in fact, be equal. Pandora’s Box or not, I do believe that when kids have been proven to do something wrong, they should be held proportionately and individually accountable for what they’ve done.

      • Nope. Punishment was not would I would call justice. In what other aspects of life do we get to keep anything we get caught cheating at? Cheat on a test? Fail. Cheat with PED? Suspended and fined. But when a whole team is complicit in cheating and only the the managers get punished? Where is the accountability for the athletes? They get to walk away free? That’s insane. And how does a team get to keep the championship? If a student got caught cheating in school, I’m pretty sure the student wouldn’t get to keep the grade. MLB head office seems to be a bunch of panzies.

    • “if we would have played better”

      Utter nonsense. No matter what LA did, the Astericks cheated and took an unfair advantage that no “playing better” could have rectified. You need look no further than G3 or G5 of that series. Yu got screwed because they knew what was coming, his pitching was not the issue. Then Kersh and Morrow got screwed in G5. The Dodgers win either of those games and we aren’t here having this discussion.

      This quote from (of all people) Steven A Smith is bang on: “…in Houston you’re talking about 18 runs, 26 hits, six home runs surrendered by a Dodgers squad that was considered ripe with aces. Suddenly, they can’t get anybody out. And it made absolutely no sense.”

      It all makes sense now doesn’t it?

  8. Commissioner Rob Manfred told the world yesterday I will punish the Houston organization a little bit so it looks like I did something about it the most cheating scandal in MLB and of all sports in the history. Because they got caught I will reward Houston organization with 2017 World Series title and trophy and the players I will turned a “Blind Eye” really? Wow “Double Standards”
    Corruption at it’s finest. What a sad time for MLB at the watch of Commissioner Rob Manfred.

  9. Yesterday Jim Crane the owner of the Houston organization did the right thing by firing his GM Jeff Luhnow and Manager AJ Hinch. Now to make it really right he should return the 2017 World Series trophy to MLB and say we did not deserved to be 2017 World Series Champions we cheated. Wow if he does that and make it right for all MLB.

    • Thank you for remembering the Cardinals’ dastardly deeds. I will always believe Matheny had his pitcher plunk Hanley on purpose.

  10. How do you heal a wound this serious? I can’t believe the Astro players went along with it. One day their kids or grand kids will read about this and they will ask “daddy, did you really cheat to win the Series?” Is any trophy or ring worth that?

    They tarnished the reputation of the greatest game ever played, so the punishment was probably too lenient…..but the Astros and the coaches and players will have to live with the shame for the rest of their lives. Maybe that is the worst cut of all.

    • Wait until Altuve or Springer is up for the Hall. If the BWAA has taught us anything, it’s that they don’t forgive and they don’t forget when it comes time for nomination. Just ask Barry or Roger…

      “grandpa, you were such a great baseball player, why aren’t you in the hall of fame”

  11. All home games should have been forfeited for the entire season. As if they did not happen. Then reassess their record and change all stats and wins and losses. Now that would be fair.

  12. Marshall,
    1. Houston did NOT receive a decent punishment
    2. Ban their manager and GM as well as Cora, for life.
    3. Strip the cheating bastards of the fake title.

  13. This is the best of championships of Baseball. Why wouldn’t you punish the team/teams to the fullest? A slap on the wrist is not enough! You take the Titles, the Trophies, the Rings and everything else that goes with it even the extra monies they received for winning. A Boxing champ would be stripped of everything if found cheating.

  14. SoCal Dodger Fans —- The Astros are scheduled to play in Anaheim April 3rd, 4th and 5th. This will be your first opportunity to let Houston know how you feel, in person.

  15. All Dodger fans and who is from LA. Should have a shirt.., Jersey, jacket , patch made saying .Dodgers 2017 World Series Champions

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