The largest sign-stealing scandal in the history of baseball, a game that for more than a century treated the dark arts of cheating with a wink and nod, began with Major League Baseball embracing technology.
In 2014, MLB adopted a challenge-based replay system that put live television monitors close to dugouts. Commissioner, Rob Manfred, in the most severe action of his five-year term, attempted to slam it shut Monday by imposing massive precedent-setting penalties against the Houston Astros for their misuse of technology in 2017 and 2018.
MLB suspended Astros manager, AJ Hinch, and general manager, Jeff Luhnow for a year, through the 2020 World Series. ( Astros owner, Jim Crane has since fired Hinch and Luhnow.) The team has been stripped of its first and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021. Additionally, the league fined the Astros $5 million, the maximum amount allowed under the MLB Constitution. No players were suspended as the league chose only to go after the club’s managerial figures.
Astros personnel told MLB investigators about eight other teams who used technology to steal signs in 2017 or 2018, such as the culture of the time. Only one of those teams, the Boston Red Sox, is under a known investigation as a result of information baseball found credible. Boston now understands the scope of possible penalties, including to Alex Cora, its manager. Cora is linked to both teams, as bench coach for the 2017 Astros and manager of the 2018 Red Sox. Both teams won the World Series. According to MLB’s report, Cora used the Astros dugout phone connected to the replay room to obtain information on opponents’ signs early in the 2017 season.
Now that Manfred has swung his hammer, he has to decide on how to assure a corrupt-free game in a high-tech world. The answer is either more technology or less technology, and he’s not sure which path is correct. Two of baseball’s past three World Series champions created advantages with the misuse of technology. One investigation concluded Monday and another is underway. With his precedent-setting decision Monday, Manfred this time used more than just boldface type to put every club employee on notice as to why baseball’s history of winks and nods is over.
It is unfortunate to see teams take advantage of the game. Hopefully, the penalties issued will send a message to other teams to play the game fairly. Until then we will have to wait and see the penalty issued to Cora. The question still remains, what will Manfred do to end these cheating allegations and prevent them from spreading?