Major League Baseball fans want nothing more than for the Houston Astros “sign stealing” scandal to disappear as evidence continues to pile up. This week more news broke on what is now being called “Codebreaker” and it isn’t pretty. This week, Wall Street Journal writer Jared Diamond released a story that outlined the details of the cheating scandal throughout the Astros’ front office. What was originally designated a player-driven scheme (and still is by Commissioner Rob Manfred), it’s become clearly evident that the Astros’ front office was involved quite heavily. If you’re like most, ignorance is bliss and have no desire to read the full account. Basically, all you would need to know is the scheme originated in 2017, used algorithms and allowed for Astros’ personnel to uncover other teams signs which ultimately lead to the trash-banging scheme we’ve all seen. Before we could blink our eyes “Codebreaker” has become one of the biggest scandals in Major League Baseball history. The penalties for “Codebreaker” seem pretty light when compared to the fact that the Houston Astros will now forever have a black mark on their organization. Not to mention, the warm greetings they will get on the road during the 2020 season.
The Players & Coaches
One of the first penalties to come down from “Codebreaker” was the firing of manager A.J. Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow, who were both suspended for the 2020 season. There’s strong evidence that Hinch never supported sign-stealing, however he never did anything to stop it at the same time. General manager Jeff Luhnow, on the other hand, can’t produce such a claim and ultimately lost his job and earned a suspension for now stopping it. One of the most interesting pieces of the report released by Major League Baseball is the finding that Owner Jim Crane had no idea about the operation. In fact, during the 2017 and 2018 season Crane told Luhnow to make sure no electronics were used to steal signs. With Hinch and Luhnow out of baseball, most fans are scratching their head at the fact that not one Astros player was penalized. Because they all cooperated with the investigation each player was given immunity and will be playing in a ballpark near you in 2020.
For one of the largest scandals in Major League Baseball history, the penalties (outside of the firings of Hinch and Luhnow) are a slap on the wrist in the overall scheme of things. The Houston Astros were fined the maximum amount under the constitution – $5 million. Why is that number interesting? Well, first the team has been in the World Series two of the past three years, which means they have raked in some serious playoff money that they do not have to forfeit. Secondly, well, that amount of money is nothing to them. Lesson learned, we guess? The Astros will also be forfeiting their 1st and 2nd round draft picks for the next two years as well. This might be the most damaging fine of them all for the future of the organization. There’s also the unknown. How will “Codebreaker” effect the team going forward? Will season ticket holders cancel their plans? Will fans boycott the games? Will merchandise sales drop because your favorite player is a cheater? All of this stuff is purely speculative at this point as to what the impact will be in 2020. It’s hard to imagine that this won’t impact the organizations financial well-being beyond a $5 million fine. Only time will tell.
Forfeiting World Series Title
One of the major arguments among baseball purists is whether or not the Houston Astros should forfeit their 2017 World Series Championship. As of today, it is confirmed the Astros cheated, but are not required to return their World Series trophy and forfeit the title. Many believe that nothing would hurt more than to have them take down their 2017 title banner at Minute Maid Park and return the World Series trophy. One may feel one way or another about this, but owner Jim Crane is steadfast in his belief that cheating or not he had the best team on the field in the 2017 World Series. Because of this sentiment you can be sure that the title will stay in Houston despite “Codebreaker”.
One of the more interesting developments in the past couple of days is the civil lawsuit filed by former relief pitcher Mike Bolsinger, who is claiming that the Astros’ cheating ended his career. In his suit he is requesting that the team forfeit the $31 million in total bonuses they earned during the 2017 World Series and have it donated to children’s charities and retired baseball players in need. It’s an interesting piece of news, but will amount to nothing. Bolsinger’s last inning he pitched in his career was on August 4, 2017 vs. the Astros. In the inning, he faced 8 batters, gave up four hits and walked three. Among those hits was a home run by Marwin Gonzalez. That was the last time he pitched in the big leagues. His lawsuit is built on the grounds that they stole signs that ultimately lead to him losing his job. As mentioned above, this won’t amount to anything, but it’s a nice gesture that he wanted the money from the suit donated.
At the end of the day, “Codebreaker” will be forever etched in Houston Astros history. As a baseball fan, you won’t be able to look at Jose Altuve, George Springer and Alex Bregman for the talented players they are anymore. It’ll be impossible to not associate cheating with every player on the roster for the rest of their careers, but they’ll go on making millions while the common fan just stews in anger over this nonsense.