FOR THE WEEK OF JAN. 20, 2020
Playing dirty: Major League Baseball cheating costs three managers their jobs
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A sign-stealing scandal has enveloped professional baseball, bringing the departure of three teams' managers last week. The situation involves misbehavior during 2017 by the World Series-winning Houston Astros, who relayed opponents' pitching signals to their own batters. (As pitchers and catchers plan what will be thrown next, they exchange hand signals.) The cheating, first disclosed publicly in November by past Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, cost Houston manager A.J. Hinch his job. Also gone are Alex Cora as manager of the Boston Red Sox (he was a 2017 Astros coach and is described as a leader of the scheme) and Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets (a former Astros player). In addition, the Astros are fined $5 million (the maximum) by Major League Baseball and forfeit four play draft picks. Plus, Houston general manager Jeff Luhno is hit with a season-long suspension.
A league inquiry found that the Astros illegally used electronics to steal signs throughout the 2017 regular season and playoffs, and also early in 2018. Houston "arranged for a video room technician to install a monitor displaying the center field camera feed immediately outside of the Astros' dugout," says a nine-page report. This let the team immediately decipher the catcher's signs, which were relayed to the hitter by banging a trash can with a bat. Investigators spoke with 23 past and present Astros players. No players are punished.
"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," comments USA Today sportswriter Bob Nightengale, who says last week's report marks "one of the darkest days of the sport's history." At The Washington Post, sports columnist Fred Bowen writes: "Part of the punishment, fair or unfair, for the Astros players and coaches may be that baseball fans will always remember the Houston World Series win and think, 'Yeah, but they cheated.'"
Participant says: "As a veteran player on the Astros, I should've recognized the severity of the issue and truly regret the actions that were taken." – Carlos Beltran, fired Mets manager
Report says: "Many of the players who were interviewed admitted that they knew the scheme was wrong because it crossed the line from what the player believed was fair competition and/or violated MLB rules." – Investigation findings
Whistleblower says: "That's not playing the game the right way. They were … willing to go above and beyond to win." – Mike Fiers, 2015-17 Astros pitcher
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