Baseball, a sport once known (and probably still seen as) “America’s favourite pastime,” has found itself in the crosshairs of yet another scandal.
In a groundbreaking report by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich, the 2017 World Series-winning Houston Astros were accused of stealing other team’s signs. This gave the Astros an advantage when its batters were at the plate because they knew what pitch to expect.
How much of an advantage did the Astros have? Young Toronto Blue Jays star Vlad Guerrero Jr. put that into perspective when he told Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae, “If I knew what was coming, I’d hit .500.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first scandal to shock the baseball world and “cheat the game.” One could argue scandals are just as much a part of the game as bats and baseball gloves are.
What types of scandals has the game of baseball seen over the years?
First, there was the Black Sox Scandal in 1919. It was a match-fixing incident in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of intentionally losing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for money from a gambling syndicate led by Arnold Rothstein.
At the time, the Black Sox scandal was a major black eye for the sport and to this day, it still sort of is. The writers of the time wondered if that could be the end of baseball as they knew it. Turns out it was not.
The wheel kept on turning and the sport kept getting bigger as people transited from hearing the calls of the game on the radio to watching it on TV.
Soon, in the early ’60s, there would be a player by the name of Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds who would become one of the best hitters in the sport’s history.
In 1989, rumours were that Rose had been betting on baseball, so the MLB Commissioner at the time, Bart Giamatti, had lawyer John Dowd investigate the allegations. The Dowd Report came out, showing detailed reports of Rose’s betting. As a result, Rose was given a lifetime ban from baseball. Talk about him being in the Hall of Fame remains a touchy subject, as he was the all-time hits leader.
Then, it’s hard to forget the sport’s tainted “Steroid Era.”
In former MLB player Jose Canseco’s controversial tell-all book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big, Canseco opened the eyes of the public to baseball’s ties to performance-enhancing drugs.
The Mitchell Report, released in December 2007, blew the scandal out of the water and showed baseball fans just how large the steroid problem was. The 409-page report named 89 players who allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs.
The report named some of the top dogs of baseball: Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, and Barry Bonds were in the BALCO section; others included Kevin Brown, Roger Clemens, Eric Gagne, Andy Pettitte, and Miguel Tejada.
The report changed baseball’s landscape and the way the public viewed the sport, especially after baseball had to win back its fans after the 1994-95 MLB strike.
Now, this Astros sign-stealing scandal comes out of nowhere to shock the baseball world. If that’s not enough, The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich uncovered evidence that points to the Boston Red Sox using their video replay room illegally to steal signs throughout the 2018 season? What happened that year? The Red Sox would go on to win the World Series.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s report on the Astros sign stealing scandal further enraged the baseball world. Manfred offered immunity to the players in order to “get to the bottom of it all,” as he told ESPN.
In that same interview, Manfred called the World Series trophy a “piece of metal,” when explaining why he did not strip the Astros of their 2017 World Series championship, further irritating the baseball world.
The real question for baseball after the last few weeks’ events is how do casual baseball fans view the sport?
Skedline set out to the streets to ask people how they view the sport. Here is what was said:
Baseball fan Derril Johnston told Skedline that he actually liked the Astros scandal. “I’m a huge fan of it and honestly it’s brilliant,” Johnston said. “It’s interesting to see how they got away with it for so long.
“I think people are just jealous because their favourite team didn’t think of it. ‘If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying,’ as they say.”
Toronto Blue Jays fan Philip Stephen Bird told Skedline that he is mad. “It pisses me off that players can’t take things into their own hands for the ‘cheatstros’. All MLB pitchers should be pegging them down this season,” Bird said. “I’m sorry but, as a Jays fan, we could have beaten them, but no, the Astros had to f****** cheat.”
Travis Azzopardi thinks that MLB’s punishment should’ve been a lot stiffer. “They need to ban everyone involved from playing baseball ever again. Make an example of them,” Azzopardi said. “Treat them the same way the Black Sox were treated. MLB will look soft on cheating if it does anything else.”
Former baseball fam Dan Tomaino told Skedline what others have been saying online. “Fire Rob Manfred. Then we can talk about the rest,” Tomaino said. “The issue was handled carelessly by Manfred and the league. What a joke. Now the MLB will have to deal with pitchers clocking the ‘Stros batters all season long.”
Unlike in years past, Major League Baseball does not have a player like Cal Ripken Jr. who can “save the game” after a stretch of bad PR hits.
If things continue to trend this way, the mishandling of further atrocities to the sport will be its eventual downfall. For baseball’s sake, MLB needs to figure out how to get this PR nightmare under control.