No Dodger fan of any background, age or expectation can escape the shadow of the 2017 World Series. Its manifold shocking twists and turns, the agony of being so close in so many ways…if the Dodgers don’t win it all in this current window, it would likely have the potential to haunt the fandom like 1962 and 2002 did for the Giants, 1986 for the Red Sox, and 2011 for the Rangers.
Then came yesterday’s news, which may just change the way we (and everyone else) perceive the entire series. Former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers regaled to The Athletic that the team used an elaborate sign-stealing approach in home games (not on the road) throughout the 2017 season, in which signals were relayed from a camera in centerfield to the dugout.
Former Houston Astros pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic that the team used a camera in center field during their championship season in 2017. https://t.co/aEv9Rvl4kZ
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 12, 2019
There inevitably emerged the cynics who blanketly excused it by saying every team cheats. This may be true, and cheating in baseball, while inherently wrong, is in a very contradictory manner a part of the sport’s basic functionality. It goes all the way back to poaching players, hence how the Pittsburgh Pirates got their name.
However, this case goes far beyond the norms of sign-stealing. It weaponizes technology in a way that gives a clearly unfair advantage, which is explicitly against MLB rules. Unlike the New England Patriots’ Spygate scandal — which is but one case amidst a dynasty of Super Bowl titles (albeit one that continues to taint their reputation nonetheless) — this growing scandal threatens the integrity of Houston’s sole championship thus far.
The #Astros won the World Series in 2017. Look at these postseason splits for the following six players!
Home: .472 BA/.513 OBP/1.028 SLG/1.541 OPS, 17 H, 6 HR & 12 RBI
Away: .143 BA, .268 OBP, .229 SLG, .497 OPS, 5 H, 1 HR & 2 RBI
— Tyler Talks Sports (@Sports_Talker1) November 13, 2019
Before going further, I want to state what I frequently did on Twitter as the news unfolded: this investigation is still ongoing, and thus we should wait on final declarations. (Granted, that’s if the investigation’s very conduct proves satisfactory.) Furthermore, I am not the type to resort to “We Wuz Robbed!” just because my team lost.
However, it’s reasonable to expect the worst as to the extent of this scandal. The main reason being it fits the pattern of ruthless, sometimes morally bankrupt behavior exhibited by the Astros franchise the past two years. They have become derided for their toxic “win at all costs” organizational ethos, after all. Cheating of this magnitude easily fits that pattern.
There is much to digest from all of this. What it means for the issue as a whole throughout baseball, whether or not the Astros used this method in the postseason against any or all of Boston, New York and Los Angeles, and most importantly, what kind of punishment should be handed down. Loss of draft picks, suspensions, fines, etc.
The most controversial idea is the NCAA-level idea of stripping Houston of their title, and perhaps giving it to the Dodgers. I can see the merit in doing so, but as much as I should be in favor of it, I’m not sure it’s the right call. It certainly won’t happen. An official asterisk will honestly suffice.
Why or Why not?
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) November 12, 2019
But one thing that dawned on me, more than anything, is that this scandal may provide a weird source of closure for my feelings about 2017, and perhaps for others as well. Many may feel it only makes things worse, which is understandable. The thought of coming so close, only to likely be cheated out of a title to some degree, is excruciating in principle.
Yet in a way, it could ultimately validate what I and everyone else knew: that that team was special, a team of destiny. If it turns out that cheating was the only thing that could stop them, it ultimately strengthens their standing in a way.
Make no mistake: even with an asterisk and loss of reputation for Houston, or even a stripping of their title and transferring it to Los Angeles (which, again, I’m not really in favor of), this development does not absolve the Dodgers’ current responsibility of winning a title to truly call their own.
There’s just nothing quite like the purity of seeing a team clinch the championship in the moment — the thrill of the buildup that started on Opening Day having made its way to the ultimate payoff. The Dodgers front office, ownership, and players are as obligated as ever to deliver that in 2020.
Still, it does provide (at least for me) a decent sense of comfort knowing the possibility of the 2017 World Series having a major asterisk next to it. Maybe it’s just my belief that 2017 should have been at worst a big step in part of this current era’s “long game” approach to getting that title. Thus, my strong desire to not want to be haunted by it for too long. Maybe it’s just that series’ sordid place in the worst year of my life. Or, perhaps, it’s that suppressed homer inside of me that unconditionally believes they should have won no matter what.
Regardless, the 2017 Dodgers will live on in my heart. You already knew that…they saved my damn life after all. They’ll always have a special place in Dodgers history too. But there may just be retroactive justice for their stature with this unfolding news.
It’s still nowhere near the transcendence of seeing the team finally get that seventh title in franchise history, with a proper on-field ceremony and everything else. But amidst a sustained run of postseason pain, it’s a potential moral victory if nothing else.
It may not be the finale befitting a team as glorious as the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers…but it’s the next best thing. And damn it, I’ll take it.