The sentence may have been given to the Houston Astros but the impact of their actions will have an ever-lasting effect on the game.
Two weeks after the Houston Astros received their sentence for their sign-stealing scandal of 2017, three managers and a general manager have been fired. These, however, have made the headlines of every local sports news saturated. This is fine from a news perspective but from a sports perspective, it seems to distract readers from the true problem: the league is suffering from a credibility problem.
The past three postseasons, then, needs and demands a warning. The 2017 Astros and their sins are available for all to view (and hopefully, serve as a deterrent). The 2018 Red Sox could face a similar punishment once the investigation is over. The Los Angeles Dodgers are also being investigated by the United States’ Department of Justice for taking advantage of their players’ free-agency status. The only thing that seems to save the MLB from total disgrace is the Washington Nationals’ clean and scandal-free World Series win.
The postseasons that have passed are far from what baseball’s postseason should be: intense matches that are played fairly. The intensity was there but the fairness? Even though some say that it was, it’s kind of difficult to believe it, similar to the boy who cried wolf – and it’s a bad sign for the league as a whole. Fair or not, the entire blame falls on MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s shoulders.
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Why? Well, first of all, it’s his job to ensure a clean and fair environment for all the teams and players. In the same way that he receives credit when the league is booming, he should receive the blame when things are starting to go south. Judging by the way he’s handled the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, he’s not done anything to help alleviate the situation.
Despite the investigation arriving at the conclusion that the sign-stealing was ‘player-driven’, Manfred granted players immunity in exchange for what they know. What he was trying to do was avoid a scenario where he would have to face the players’ union or defuse a ticking bomb where, theoretically, half the league could be affected. It’s valid, sure, but one obvious problem with this approach is that when a similar incident happens, players will know they can find respite from punishment if they admit everything they know.
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In opting for a quick fix rather than a lengthy (and potentially ugly) one, Manfred could have cultivated a safe haven for cheaters. This also applies on a franchise level. He suspended general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch for the entire upcoming season, removed four draft picks, and placed a $5 million fine. He also said that owner Jim Crane was innocent. He thanked the commissioner by firing Luhnow and Hinch (better than suspension, honestly).
No one can tell exactly how bad the effects are on the league. Maybe Opening Day will bring respite for the league. Things could also get worse just as easily and given how aggressive teams view the roster-building process, this might just happen. The bottom line is that even if Manfred succeeds in his plans, it will take a while (a really, really long while) before fans are able to find the players, the teams, the managers, and the league generally credible.