GRAPHIC BY DENISE THUONG
By JACOB RAMOS
Nice guys (almost always) finish last.
Never has a phrase in any sport been so scrutinized.
In 2017, a piece of poetry in baseball came to light. The Houston Astros broke the barrier of being the joke of the Major League Baseball (MLB) for over six years and won over 100 games. From there, they became the the darling of the MLB for over 3 years, winning over 300 games in three seasons and bringing popularity back to baseball in Houston. Thus, the Astros set up what seemed to be a dynasty in the making.
Led by stars such as Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, young talent ruled Minute Maid Park, and the numbers showed that the trio always hit much better at home.
At the time, this was not suspicious at all, considering most baseball players play at their highest level when in the comfort of their own home stadium. The Astros continued to rake in win after win and all was well in H-Town.
But soon enough, a bombshell report in late 2019 changed everything for the Astros, and the MLB alike when former pitcher Mike Fiers put the Astros on blast in a cheating scandal which rocked the baseball world and took center stage on nearly all social media.
The report blatantly stated the Astros used cameras placed in center field of Minute Maid Park to steal signs from opposing teams and outed the team for their unfair practices. What many did not know, was that this very report would give way to more than just news of the Astros’ cheating, which would change the public’s perception of the team forever.
When Fiers released the report, there was understandably a decent amount of outcry from MLB fans. Many had been startled by the news, especially those who had been seemingly cheated out of seeing their favorite team win a World Series. Yet, those same fans were still on for a rollercoaster ride of emotions as more and more reports of the team’s wrongdoings eventually emerged from the dark.
By February of this year, the reports which basically conflicted, have begun to die down and settle into the hearts of MLB fans across the nation. One of the major facets of the scandal are the actions of Rob Manfred, commissioner of the MLB, whose weak, inconsistent punishment for all involved did little to serve the punishment it intended to.
For years, Manfred has been a solid commissioner, succeeding the former commissioner of the MLB, Bud Selig. Through his career, Manfred has continued to push the boundaries of baseball in America, playing games in numerous foreign countries and creating good working relations with said countries. While Manfred has been a decent commissioner, he has never been pressed with a challenge quite like the Astros’ cheating scandal.
In retrospect, there were many options at hand, some including stripping the Astros of their 2017 World Series title or suspending players involved in the scandal for life. Despite this, these punishments are nearly unheard of in the MLB, as a select few players have been banned for life, and no titles have ever been revoked from a team.
Manfred, given the opportunity to make a statement and put his foot down on the cheaters in his league, chose to instead grant all players immunity from any punishment to squeeze out information from the culprits.
Not only is this a disgusting, lowball move, Manfred neglected to strip nothing from the ‘Stros, effectively showing the MLB universe it is perfectly okay to cheat your way to wins, and titles.
This lack of repercussions will set a precedent in the MLB which will be hard to shake in coming years.
While Manfred did make some decisions viewed as relatively strong, such as the one year suspensions of AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow, Astros manager and general manager, respectively, he made no changes to the 2017 season or suspended any players.
While there was immunity granted to the players for semi-good reason, the way I see it is Manfred took the easy way out of investigating hard into the situation. When given the opportunity to raid Astros players with questions regarding their now tainted championship runs, Manfred instead expedited the situation by telling the cheaters essentially “I do not have time for this, tell us anything and you will not get in trouble.”
This is ridiculous in itself, but even worse, the commissioner did not consistently provide any sort of immunity to Luhnow or Hinch, two of the most instrumental pieces to solving this puzzle.
In such a messy situation, those two men likely had the most intel and insight on the scandal as a whole, as they were the main men governing over the players who orchestrated the cheating.
For commissioner Manfred to just give away immunities to those who do not truly deserve it is a horrible way to act, governing a top sports league in the world.
Indeed, this was an extremely perplexing situation in the sports world, one that could not easily be handled by any one man or woman.
But if you told any baseball fan in December that the Astros would receive a slap on the wrist for punishment, you would be called insane.
Dear Commissioner Manfred, you had and still have a chance to be revolutionary. I suggest you do not mess it up.