There are some people who believe that this week has been one of the darkest periods in baseball history.
But I think it has been one of the best weeks for Major League Baseball.
Baseball is in a better place today than Monday, when MLB commissioner Rob Manfred dropped a mallet over the Houston Astros, suspending AJ Hinch, club manager and general manager Jeff Luhnow throughout the 2020 season for stealing posters from his team. schemes in 2017 and 2018.
Of course, there has been some pain and there will probably be more as sign theft scandals are triggered. But the game is becoming cleaner and healthier.
And clearly baseball is in very good hands. Manfred has proven to be a man of his word.
In his memorandum of September 15, 2017 for all managers and general managers, he notified clubs that any effort to steal signs with electronic devices would be punished with serious penalties and a possible loss of draft selections. This was after an investigation showed that the Boston Red Sox had used an Apple Watch on the bench to communicate with their repetition review room, transmitting signals to runners at second base and finally to hitters.
In addition to the suspensions, the Astros lost two first-round selections and two second-round selections, and the organization received the largest fine allowed by the MLB Constitution ($ 5 million). The owner of the Astros, Jim Crane, made the commissioner’s decision even further at the end of the employment of his suspended manager and general manager.
The baseball investigation revealed an arrogant and blatant attempt to cheat by the Astros, even after the commissioner’s warning. In fact, the Astros poster theft led to an 8-1 record at home in the postseason of 2017, compared to a 3-6 record on the road to a victory in the World Series championship over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The theft of posters worked.
The intellectual author of the Astros trap plan was banking coach Alex Cora, who turned the success of the Astros into his first managerial job when he was hired to manage the Boston Red Sox in 2018.
When he packed up to go to Boston, he boldly brought the same poster stealing tactics that worked so well in Houston. They did the job in Boston when the Red Sox won the 2018 World Series, also against the Dodgers. Unfortunately for Cora, the MLB’s investigation of the Astros opened the doors to what he was doing in Boston and was soon in trouble for his actions in both places.
The Red Sox decided on Tuesday to “agree” (he was fired) to separate from Cora. He had won two rings, but lost the only job he had always wanted.
There was not a single player disciplined by the commissioner in the Astros investigation, as Manfred gave immunity to the players involved to get to the bottom of the story. In addition, no player could unilaterally implement a poster theft scheme using technology without the assistance of a coach, manager or the main office.
The only player named in the Astros MLB investigation was a veteran gardener. Carlos Beltran. According to the report, Beltrán along with Cora led the plan in Houston and oversaw its ongoing maintenance and adjustments.
So why was Beltrán’s name included in the report? Probably because when the story was revealed for the first time, Beltran denied the media several times that he knew something about it. According to the investigation, Beltrán’s denials were lies.
Beltrán’s actions have put the New York Mets in the spotlight now, as they hired him as their new manager in early November. At his introductory press conference in New York, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen mentioned Beltrán’s reliability as a big reason he was hired.
The commissioner will not discipline him for his role with the Astros, but the Mets now have to decide if Beltran can still function in his role as team leader and interact with the media. It remains to be seen whether or not he can, but his ability to thrive in his new role in New York has been significantly compromised.
Discipline and sanctions have two functions: penalize and deter. The commissioner handed both with his mallet.
The Astros now know their penalties and will now suffer for them. The Red Sox have lost their manager and will likely face the loss of draft picks and face heavy fines like the Astros. Penalties will appropriately and significantly delay both short and medium term franchises.
The suspensions and the final dismissal of the managers and the general manager involved in the poster theft scandals will have the desired effect. No manager or general manager will allow the theft of posters to happen again.
The loss of a job, reputation, credibility and money will serve as a very valuable deterrent to move forward. Sanctions have been made personal for managers and general managers. There is no way that the manager and general manager of a team will allow a player or coach on their team to cost them the job anymore. The pain of sanctions outweighs the benefits of traps. And as they should.
Cheating compromises the integrity of the game. In the end, it hurts everyone. Commissioner Manfred has taken a great step towards restoring that integrity.
In fact, it is a bright day for baseball!