When Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs to win seven Tour de France titles and an Olympic medal, he was stripped of his titles and bronze medal and banned from participating in any sport that follows the World Anti-Doping Code.
Armstrong cheated, so it follows that he should not be able to keep the prize.
When Russian athletes systemically violated the International Olympic Committee’s doping rules, Russia was stripped of 43 Olympic medals and was banned from all major international sporting competitions for four years.
Russian athletes cheated, so it follows that they should not be able to keep the prize.
So, when the Houston Astros illegally stole signs from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series (propelling the Astros to win the title), it follows that they too should have their title stripped, right? After all, they cheated, so they should not be able to keep the prize, right?
But why? The Houston Astros cheated. Period. There is no dispute. And yet, they still have their championship rings. They still have their 2017 World Series title. In fact, there won’t even be an asterisk placed next to their title – not that that would remotely be enough.
Apparently, the old saying “cheaters never prosper” does not apply to the Houston Astros.
The Astros’ cheating scandal is one of the most egregious affronts to the game of baseball. During three games of the 2017 World Series against the Dodgers at Minute Maid Park (the Astros’ home stadium), the Astros used a camera in center field to record the catcher’s signs to the pitcher, which revealed the type of pitch that was about to be thrown. Because the Astros’ batter knew what pitch he was about to face, he had a major advantage. He knew the best time to swing at the ball and the exact amount of force he would need to hit the ball, potentially driving a run home or hitting a home run.
While sign-stealing itself is not illegal in Major League Baseball (MLB), using electronic objects like binoculars or cameras to steal signs is – and that is exactly what the Astros did. They cheated.
Yes, manager A.J. Hinch, general manager Jeff Luhnow, and former bench coach Alex Cora (who most recently was the manager of the Boston Red Sox) have been fired. And yes, the team has been fined 5 million dollars and lost a few draft picks. But this is simply not enough. The Astros are holding on to the most prestigious prize of all:
The 2017 World Series Title.
The Astros have disgraced baseball. Both the coaching staff and the players knew about the sign stealing. In fact, the players directly participated in communicating the pitcher’s signs to their teammates. Players banged on a trash can to relay the type of pitch the batter should expect: one or two bangs meant an off-speed pitch; no bang meant a fastball was coming.
What is outrageous is that despite their direct role in the cheating scandal, those players still have their championship rings. They are still allowed to play baseball. What message does that send?
This is an issue that transcends what team you cheer for—cheating is cheating is cheating. And, cheating is always wrong (even if you are a diehard Astros fan). The Dodgers were denied a fair chance to compete for the highest honor in baseball. The Astros robbed them of that chance.
Baseball is supposed to be America’s favorite pastime, and the Astros have tainted the sport. Shame on them. And shame on the MLB for not doing more.
The Astros need to apologize and should relinquish their title. They need to stand up and show some integrity. They need to take responsibility for their actions. That is their only path forward.
Sadly, we all know how this is going to end. The Astros aren’t looking for redemption; they just want to keep the prize.
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