I’m not used to leading with general MLB news, but yesterday brought the first of the fallout from events that have permanently scarred the integrity of the game. The suspensions and subsequent firings of Houston GM Jeffrey Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch for their lack of oversight and alleged participation in the Astros’ sign stealing scandal was THE news of the day, not just for professional baseball, but sports in general.
There’s not much more for me to write that hasn’t been written elsewhere, but I can give you my opinions on the matter. First, I’m glad Rob Manfred didn’t vacate their 2017 championship or place an official asterisk next to any of their accomplishments over the past three seasons. While that probably doesn’t sit well with Dodgers fans, I don’t agree with giving a team a de facto championship. I suppose a case could be made for declaring that baseball does not recognize that Houston won the World Series, but history will anyway. I’m also glad that a playoff ban was not part of any punishment. That would have been awkward and would make a mess of the upcoming season, leaving the playoff race ripe for potential shenanigans and allegations.
That the suspensions are just for one year seemed a little light to me. Though Hinch seemed generally disappointed, Luhnow came across as anything but remorseful. Though it was the maximum allowed by MLB’s bylaws, the $5 million fine is inconsequential considering baseball is a multi-billion dollar business. The loss of first and second round draft picks this year and next will hurt the Astros, but the team will still be allowed to participate in international free agency. I’m shocked that no players were penalized, which had to come as a relief to new Mets’ skipper Carlos Beltrán, who played for the ’17 Astros and was said to have been one of the coordinators behind the allegations. Houston owner Jim Crane also escaped unscathed.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was a bench coach on that Astros team and who is under investigation on suspicion that Boston may have incorporated similar illegal machinations in 2018, is expected to be punished severely. On the surface, Manfred is forcefully declaring that tarnishing the game by cheating will not be tolerated, though, again, how much of a stand is he really taking if only some of those charged with overseeing operations take the fall? That no coaches or players were punished for their actions or participation dilutes the punishment quite a bit.
As fans, I suspect baseball would like us to carry on in a business-as-usual matter, but that’s a lot to ask. Technology is a double-edged sword that has made armchair GMs of casual and dedicated fans alike, and it is also part and parcel to compromising gamesmanship and ethics. As for younger fans who have yet to fully digest the sheer power of statistical reasoning, it is more a matter of watching their heroes fall, or the somber realization that a rival team may have simply stolen a championship.
If there actually was a parade, that would be amazing. That day, game 7, I will never forget my son who was 10 year old at that time, watching the game all the way through till the end while trying to hide his tears with his hat. https://t.co/jHkioogH4o
— ダルビッシュ聖子 Seiko Darvish (@seiko63) January 14, 2020
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs could consider moving Kris Bryant to center field on a regular basis, though I’m not sure that David Bote is an everyday third baseman.
- If the Cubs trade one of their core pieces, and you are one of the fans who expect Theo Epstein to recoup a major haul of prospects and/or young players, you might end up being disappointed.
- The Cubs did make a trade yesterday, sending Tony Kemp to the Athletics for infield prospect Alfonso Rivas.
- Chicago Tribune reporter Paul Sullivan thinks the Cubs should make a significant number of aesthetic and attitude changes with a supposed purpose to make the organization appear more professional, but it reeks of boomerism.
- The Cardinals may be emerging as leaders in the race to acquire Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, though I don’t see it happening based solely on the history of St. Louis president of baseball operations John Mozeliak.
- The Cubs are confident Craig Kimbrel will rebound this season.
- The aggressive approach of Nico Hoerner during his September stint provided some big moments, but may also have exposed a weakness that opposing pitchers will exploit.
- Hoerner talked about his big league experience for MLB Pipeline.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) January 12, 2020
The Astros are expected to name current bench coach Joe Espada as their interim manager.
MLB has asked the Dodgers and other organizations not to comment on the cheating allegations and punishments levied by Manfred.
Dodgers fans provided the best cheating memes on social media yesterday.
Of course MLB can’t keep its players from commenting, and the responses of current and former players were polarizing, to say the least.
— New York Post (@nypost) January 9, 2020
They Said It
- “I find that the conduct of the Astros, and its senior baseball operations executives, merits significant discipline. I base this finding on the fact that the club’s senior baseball operations executives were given express notice in September 2017 that I would hold them accountable for violations of our policies covering sign stealing, and those individuals took no action to ensure that the club’s players and staff complied with those policies during the 2017 postseason and the 2018 regular season.” – Rob Manfred
- “The conduct described herein has caused fans, players, executives at other MLB clubs, and members of the media to raise questions about the integrity of games in which the Astros participated. And while it is impossible to determine whether the conduct actually impacted the results on the field, the perception of some that it did causes significant harm to the game.” – Manfred
- “We will withhold determining the appropriate level of discipline for [Alex] Cora until after the DOI completes its investigation of the allegations that the Red Sox engaged in impermissible electronic sign stealing in 2018 while Cora was the manager.” – Manfred
Tuesday Walk Up Song
Hold That Thought by Ben Folds Five. Yes it’s dad rock, and yes, that’s my demographic. This is my third favorite song of the 2010’s.