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April 16, 2024

The Astros and Red Sox should lose their titles

By BINYAMIN NOVETSKY | January 30, 2020

I am sure you do not need me to recap the sign-stealing scandal that has been rocking Major League Baseball for the past half year. 

Baseball still has not recovered since the earth-shattering interview that pitcher Mike Fiers gave to The Athletic late last year, admitting that the Houston Astros stole signs using video technology. 

The drama of this disgrace is sure to play out over the entirety of the upcoming baseball season. 

The Boston Red Sox still have not been officially punished as their investigation continues. But if the way the MLB handles the Astros is any indication, punishment won’t be very light.

Well, for the most part.

The moment I heard about the scandal, a thought jumped to the front of my mind: Would the MLB take away the World Series victories of these two deceitful teams? Would it revoke the Commissioner’s Trophy? 

This was a bombshell the likes of which has hardly been seen in baseball’s history. 

As reports continued to come out of vibrating band aids and banging trash cans of systematic and malicious cheating, it was apparent that this story was equal in measure to those of baseball past. 

Steroids, Pete Rose, the Chicago Black Sox. All of these things still stain the history of baseball, and there’s little doubt that this story will do so to the same degree. 

In fact, such organized cheating by an entire organization has not happened since that shameful 1919 World Series. 

In that case, the cheaters lost on purpose. 

To cheat to win, though, on such a widespread and methodical level, is unheard of in the history of the MLB. It is simply unprecedented.

And that is why the punishment is not enough. 

Even though the MLB fined the Astros millions of dollars, revoked coveted draft picks and left the Astros without a GM or manager (the Red Sox already having fired their manager as well), the punishment needs to be even stronger.

This is historical. It is despicable and it has tainted the 2017 and 2018 World Series beyond repair. 

Their victories need to be taken away.

I said before that the MLB has been harsh in their reaction to this scandal, and there is some truth to that. 

The punishments it dished out were certainly strong, but there are also some glaring holes in the MLB’s judgment. 

For example, not a single player was punished as part of a reported plea deal for honest testimony. 

More importantly, at the end of the day, these teams got what they wanted. Yes, they’re facing repercussions for their actions, but they cheated to win, and they did! 

It doesn’t matter how you punish them because as long as their cheating was successful it means little to nothing. 

They will still fly their championship banners, wear their World Series rings and claim a victory they blatantly did not deserve. 

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred did respond to this, but his words were deeply underwhelming. 

He explained that the MLB will honor the “long tradition in baseball of not trying to change what happened.” 

Is that the truth, though? Does baseball honor the home run record of Barry Bonds? Will he, or Roger Clemens or Alex Rodriguez, be accepted into the Hall of Fame for their historically great careers? Will Pete Rose ever be enshrined there? Will Shoeless Joe Jackson ever have the redemption he deserves?

Let’s be real. The MLB cares about its agenda. The MLB is terrified of taking anything too far, be it accepting cheaters or denying them the fruits of their cheating. 

Manfred said: “I think the answer from our perspective is to be transparent about what the investigation showed and let our fans make their own decision about what happened.” 

But that is simply not enough. 

The fans are mad. The fans want more, or at the very least the fans want the MLB to give a full and official response to why the title will or won’t be taken away. 

To put it on the shoulders of others is to deny the responsibility of making the decision, and it is cowardly on the part of Manfred to do so.

My suggestion is simple: Do not go about rewriting history, and make the Dodgers or the Yankees — the teams most heavily hurt by the sign-stealing, champions. 

There was never a fair series played between those teams and the cheaters, and to assume what would have happened is absurd.

On that, Manfred and I agree. Instead, just declare the championships null. Make the teams take down the banners. 

Fine them or any player who posts videos of those World Series or who even wears the championship ring in public or on social media. I understand that this sounds like erasing history, but that not what I mean at all. 

There is no need to pretend the cheating never happened. 

Own up to the scandal, admit that those baseball seasons are forever tainted and move on. 

But do not let those who cheat ever claim legitimate victory again. They simply did not prove that they were the best teams in baseball and they have no right to boast as if they did.

The obvious parallel to this would be when the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) stripped the 2013 basketball tournament championship from the University of Louisville after the Rick Pitino scandal. 

Although the NCAA does not have a great reputation in terms of fairness, there are still some lessons to learn from its decision. 

As a Michigan (the team that lost in those tainted finals) fan, it did not mean anything to me when that happened, and I understand that many baseball fans might think the same will happen here. 

However, what the Louisville Cardinals did is entirely different from the sign-stealing scandal. 

The Louisville Cardinals cheated by breaking rules that have no influence on how the actual game of basketball was played. The team gave women basketball tickets and money in exchange for sex acts for its players and recruits.

What they did was admittedly horrific, and they certainly deserved punishment, but taking away games that they won by actually playing the sport fairly feels cheap and forced. Louisville’s players still beat Michigan’s players in the NCAA Championship game fair and square.

The Astros and the Red Sox did something fundamentally different. 

They did not cheat to get better players: They cheated by playing the game illegally. They played World Series games using technology to steal signs. Those games are forever tainted.

Those wins are forever stained. 

No, you cannot change the past, but you can make it clear once and for all that at least in baseball, cheaters never prosper. 

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