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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Baseball’s permanent black eye

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Photo by Courtesy of Matt Slocum/Associated Press

The cheating that took place by the Houston Astros in the 2017 World Series resulted in arguably one of the biggest professional baseball scandals. 

While cheating in professional baseball has brought a black eye to the entire industry, it has continued to show winning and personal gain is more important than respecting the game.
All major sports leagues including the MLB, NBA and the NFL have seen their own fair share of scandals. These scandals have hurt the integrity of the game and show the sport’s priority of money and success.
With the growth of social media and the new age of technology, methods of cheating have become more accessible. The Houston Astros used videos from a camera in centerfield to read and pick up opposing pitchers’ signs. The media and its wide audience reach made the Astros’ story surreal.
Players such as Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa were never talked about in the media during the ‘90s when it came to steroid abuse even though they had allegations against them.
“Difference between then and now, there wasn’t a lot of care between the media; they care more about it now,” John Lopez, a SportsRadio 610 sports analyst, said. “People were caught up in the moment and years after when they found out Bonds did it, it changed people’s perspective on players and teams caught cheating.”
The MLB handed down a strict penalty to the Houston Astros by suspending former manager AJ Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow for a year. The club was fined five million dollars and lost a first and second round pick in 2020 and 2021, according to a 2020 Guardian.com article. Five million is the highest allowable fine under the Major League Constitution, according to a 2020 NBC sports article. The Astros then terminated contracts of both Hinch and Luhnow. Houston went on to win the 2017 World Series, but were accused of stealing signs in the 2017 regular season.
“They did the right thing by letting go [of] their manager and GM go but at the end of the day they have to win another one. They have to win another World Series within the next couple of years to prove it is not a fluke and they deserve to be champions,” former college baseball player Roque Flores said.
The Astros had struggled for years to find success and hit an all-time low from 2011 to 2013 when they were nicknamed the “Disastros.” Within those three years, their best record was 56-106. Fast forward to 2017, when they were 101-61 on their quest for the title. Finally, they were holding up the World Series trophy, bringing home a title to Houston.
Former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers prompted the investigation after telling the Athletic the Astros were cheating, according to a 2019 ESPN article. The national media took it by storm and the MLB launched an investigation. Commissioner Rob Manfred discovered the Astros used video-replay to decode opposing teams’ signs, and determined the team guilty of illegally stealing opponents’ signs during the 2017 regular season.
“The Houston Astros had the worst scandal,” Houston Chronicle sports writer John McClain said. “Finally to win and to beat the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers – the title will always be tarnished – they won a championship and their name will never be cleared until they win again.”
Also scandalous was when performance enhancing drugs took over the baseball world in the 90s. Athletes take these drugs to get an edge in the game. The MLB has been cracking down on steroids for years, but athletes still find ways to get an edge.
“Everyone at the time was taking steroids, and it doesn’t help you hit the ball any better; it definitely adds an advantage to your body but those guys stayed great until they retired,” former minor league baseball player David McDaniel said.
“Sports tries to put parameters around it to level the playing field,” Texas A&M sports management professor Jon Heidtke said. “Those individuals try to develop an edge while some are more legal than others.”
With the new age of social media, scandals in sports have been easier to expose. Both the Astros and the performance enhancing drugs situations began on social media.
“Science is ahead of its time now, and players can find ways to get around the testing program,” Lopez said.
Pete Rose was banned from the Hall of Fame and greats like Bonds, Sosa and Roger Clemens haven’t been selected after years on the ballot. Accusations have circled for years about whether players caught cheating should be selected into the Hall of Fame. Baseball experts have questioned how to define Hall of Fame eligibility.
“If it’s a museum and shows the history of the game, Bonds and Clemens deserve it; if it is more based on the purity and integrity of the game then they shouldn’t,” Lopez said.
Sports is a business, and during the 2018 season, the MLB generated over $9.9 billion.
“If the individual player succeeds, then the amount of endorsements, money and fame is endless,” Heidtke said.
Whether it is stealing signs or taking PEDs, the integrity of the game will always be tarnished. Baseball will continue, and many of these players get second chances. None of the Astros players were fined or suspended after being caught cheating.
“The Astros reputation is mostly tarnished because they never showed any remorse after they got caught; the players never owned up to their mistakes and got a second chance,” McDaniel said.
Players in today’s game such as Starling Marte and Jorge Polanco were caught using steroids and subsequently able to return to the field after an 80-game suspension.
The following year, the Astros found themselves back in the World Series and lost in seven games to the Washington Nationals. Last season, the Astros made it back to the American League Championship Series but lost to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The common theme is that the game will always go on. The integrity of baseball continues to be tarnished and the hunger for fame and fortune has taken over ‘America’s pastime’.
“The MLB did not want another steroid era scandal and wanted to keep the Astros scandal under wraps for as long as possible because of how negatively it would affect the game,” McDaniel said.

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