The Houston Astros’ reputation is ruined, and their future severely damaged.
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch will never be looked at the same way again, suspended by Major League Baseball and fired by the Astros in a single day.
It’s grossly naive to think the Astros are the only team who cheated, using video monitors to illegally steal signs, but they were the most blatant violators, showing the most disdain, with an utter arrogance and aloofness.
And on Monday, in one of the darkest days of the sport’s history, commissioner Rob Manfred made sure their legacy will forever be tarnished.
Manfred imposed the most severe penalties against a team since the Chicago Black Sox scandal in 1919 when players threw the World Series, trying to desperately protect the game’s credibility after this latest scandal smears the sport.
This isn’t the NCAA where titles can be vacated.
The Astros will still keep their 2017 World Series and American League pennant.
But can you imagine the awkwardness when the Astros hoist the AL flag at Minute Maid Park on opening day?
A.J. Hinch led the Astros to a World Series title in 2017. (Photo: Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports)
MLB can only be grateful that the Astros didn’t win their second World Series title in three years, making their era of greatness a complete fraud.
Luhnow and Hinch were already publicly shamed with their one-year suspensions, but Astros owner Jim Crane put their careers in jeopardy by firing them an hour later.
Luhnow, already one of the most unpopular GMs in the industry among his peers, may have trouble finding a team to employ him, certainly in the same position.
Hinch, extremely well-liked among his peers, should have an easier time, but any team who hires him will be facing a public-relations backlash.
The Astros players, none who were disciplined, surely will be subjected to taunts and scorn by opposing fans, and their performances will be heavily scrutinized.
The Astros, whose 311-175 record the past three years is the best in baseball, now are faced with a huge obstacle to retain their success, not only being without Luhnow and Hinch, but losing their first- and second-round draft picks the next two years. The Astros were also fined the maximum $5 million, but that will be covered by not having to pay Hinch and Luhnow.
“When I found out, I was very upset,’’ Crane said. “We want to be known as playing by the rules. We broke the rules. Very unfortunate. Neither one of the guys implemented or pushed the (cheating) system, but neither of them did anything about it.
“The consequences are severe.’’
There will be other teams who will be disciplined along the way. MLB opened its investigation Monday into cheating allegations against the Boston Red Sox and manager Alex Cora, the former Astros’ bench coach, a high-ranking MLB official told USA TODAY Sports.
Cora, who was the mastermind behind the cheating scandal in Houston, according to MLB’s investigation, was also illegally using monitors in Boston, according to a report by The Athletic. Cora is expected to be suspended, too, and the Red Sox may also choose to terminate him.
Certainly, this will be remembered as one of the ugliest days in Major League Baseball history, right along with the recent steroid scandals, threatening the integrity of the sport at a time when it is legalizing gambling.
“All Pete Rose did was bet on his own team to win ….fairly,’’ former Major League pitcher Phil Hughes tweeted.
Rose, of course, received a lifetime ban in 1989.
But just like Rose betting on the Cincinnati Reds as manager, the Astros’ actions severely tarnished the game’s integrity in virtually every imaginable way.
MORE ON THE ASTROS SCANDAL
- MLB hands down historic punishment to Astros for sign stealing
- Astros fire manager, GM after MLB's cheating investigation
- After Astros' sign-stealing suspensions, Red Sox's Alex Cora is next
If you’re the Los Angeles Dodgers, how can you not be infuriated by the memories of watching the Astros and Red Sox winning back-to-back World Series in front of your fans at Dodger Stadium?
If you were managerial candidates for the Red Sox and New York Mets’ openings that went to Cora and Carlos Beltran – who was on that ’17 Astros’ team and took part in the cheating – how can you not feel like you were robbed out of a job?
Outcome of games were distorted. Jobs were lost. Salaries were compromised.
“Assessing discipline of players for this type of conduct is both difficult and impractical,’’ Manfred said. “It is difficult because virtually all of the Astros’ players had some involvement or knowledge of the scheme, and I am not in a position based on the investigative record to determine with any degree of certainty every player who should be held accountable, or their relative degree of culpability.
“It is impractical given the large number of players involved, and the fact that many of those players now play for other clubs.’’
It will be argued ad infinitum how much the cheating impacted the Astros’ success. Some hitters relied on it. Others considered it a distraction. We’ll never know for sure.
Crane said in his press conference that the cheating shouldn’t taint the Astros’ World Series title, but let’s be serious: This taints the performance of any player who put on an Astros uniform the past few seasons, fairly or unfairly – and perhaps the Red Sox, too.
It also leaves the public wondering the validity of any outcome they witnessed the past three seasons involving the Astros.
“I am neither in a position to evaluate whether the scheme helped Astros hitters (who were unquestionably a very talented group), nor whether it helped the Astros win any games,’’ Manfred said. “There are so many factors that impact the outcome of games that addressing that issue would require rank speculation. But for purposes of my decision, regardless of whether the scheme was effective or not, it violated the rules, and at a minimum, created the appearance of unfairness.’’
There will be more investigations in coming months. More suspensions. More whistle-blowers. The Astros are the first, but they won’t be the last.
Baseball will survive. It has been shamed and disgraced plenty of times before, and has always managed to recover.
The only difference now is that may never be quite viewed the same way.
The Astros’ 2017 World Series banner will always remind us of that.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale
Source: Read Full Article