After accusations that the Houston Astros cheated throughout the 2017 season surfaced, the team’s integrity flew right out the window and now commission Rob Manfred has indicated they have a big problem. Club owner Jim Crane hasn’t released any public statement on the matter, further fueling the veracity of the claims.
It now appears that the Astros may not have limited its antics to the 2017 season, as MLB executives are reportedly looking into the team’s activity in both the previous season and the most recent, which saw them go all the way to a fight for the World Series championship before being defeated by the Washington Nationals.
Manfred on Houston Astros
MLB team owners got together this week and, after they met on Thursday, commissioner Rob Manfred acknowledged that the league will “investigate the Houston Astros situation as thoroughly as humanly possible.” This investigation reportedly goes beyond the cheating claims, though, as MLB is expected to look into Houston’s firing of assistant GM Brandon Taubman for comments he made in front of a group of female reporters.
The Astros came under fire after Oakland pitcher Mike Fiers revealed to The Athletic that the team had employed measures to steal signs during the 2017 World Series championship season. He was with the team at the time, so there isn’t much reason to doubt the sincerity of the claims. Fiers had tried to spread the word at the time, but only through side remarks made to players on other teams. He assumedly didn’t take the issue up with MLB brass.
Manfred says about the impending investigation, “That investigation is going to encompass not only what we know about ’17, but also ’18 and ’19. To the extent we are talking to people all over the industry, former employees, competitors, whatever. To the extent that we find other leads, we’re going to follow these leads.”
He adds, “Our clubs, all 30 of them, recognize that the integrity of the competition on the field is crucial to what we do every day,” he said. “I think that there’s wide support across the industry for the idea that when we have a problem in this area, there should be firm, serious disciplinary action that discourages people from engaging in this type of behavior.”
The Astros apparently weren’t the only team cheating in 2017. The league fined the Boston Red Sox in September of that year for using an Apple Watch in order to steal signals during a game against the New York Yankees. Despite gross revenues in the league that top $10.3 billion, MLB doesn’t have resources to dedicate to control the integrity of the game, with Manfred, in response to the Apple Watch incident, explaining, “It’s a challenge for our sport and all sports to regulate the use of that technology in a way that makes sure that we have integrity in our play.”
At that time, Manfred put the entire league on notice, announcing that fines for anyone caught cheating would be much more severe than what had previously been seen and as the Houston Astros cheating scandal surfaced, he explained, “I wrote what I wrote because I did not believe that the discipline that have been handed out in the past were in line with the significance of the issues that we are dealing with. I viewed them with a particular level of seriousness.”
However, it appears not everyone was listening, or perhaps thought he wasn’t actually serious. Manfred adds, “Well, we know at least one instance it probably wasn’t heeded.”
Maybe the penalties for cheating aren’t severe enough. Manfred has threatened to take away a team’s future draft options if busted for not playing by the rules, but, if that’s as harsh as it gets, it’s no surprise teams are willing to sidestep the rules. That’s nothing more than a slap on the wrist. If the league wants to issue a severe penalty that actually drives the point home, keep a team in the dugout for a year and see what happens.