Like so many others during this time of physical distancing, I have found myself watching The Great British Baking Show. It seems to be filling my need for consuming competitive events. I am also learning plenty about baking.
I felt my first earthquake today. It is weird feeling your house sway with items clanging. Life experience ✅
Yesterday Major League baseball handed out their punishment to the Houston Astros for stealing signs during their 2017 Word Series winning season. In addition to the punishment handed out by the MLB, the owner of the Astros, Jim Crane, fired his manager, A. J. Hinch, and his general manager, Jeff Luhnow. Both becoming the fall guys (along with Joey Cora, manager of the Red Sox, and Carlos Beltran, manager of the New York Mets) for the cheating that took place. The Astros also lost four draft picks and were fined $5 million. A small price to pay for a World Series title.
Inherent to baseball
After chatting with someone about the Astros punishment yesterday I was asked if I thought baseball players and executives were more likely to cheat than those in other sports. It was an interesting question. My first inclination was definitely not. There are cheaters in all sports. However, after reflecting a bit more, I couldn’t be sure. Baseball has always had ways to cheat that were considered a part of the game. Just don’t get caught. Corked bats and spit balls (and other substances) come to mind. Sign stealing has also always been a part of baseball. It is legal as long as you don’t use video equipment during the game to figure it out (this is also the case in college and professional football). And then there is performance enhancing drugs.
Cheating feels like a systemic issue from the top when considering how slow MLB was in figuring out how to handle performance enhancing drugs. It was slow because the money and attention were too good. The ratings and media attention around Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds were too much to pass up. While a black eye remains, the value of MLB teams increased significantly.
According to Forbes in 2003, the top valued MLB team was worth $849 million. The bottom valued team in 2003 was worth $113 million. In 2019, again according to Forbes, the top valued team is worth $4.3 billion. The bottom valued team is worth $1 billion. In 16 seasons that is an increase of 542% for the top valued team and a 885% increase for the bottom valued slot.
It appears no financial investments were harmed during MLB’s slowroll in dealing with performance enhancing drugs. *Only players were damaged during this time.
*Not to say that players don’t deserve some of to blame, but they were part of system that was allowing it for its own benefit. Then they were thrown under the bus.
Billionaire wins, again
The owner of the Astros, billionaire Jim Crane, gets no real punishment. He keeps his 2017 Word Series ring. He keeps his franchise. And he gets to look like the good guy because he fired his manager and general manager. I’m relieved that there are respected industry journalists that are calling out the MLB and Jim Crane for what this is. Billionaire protection. Utilizing fake punishment and public relations to shift blame from those that are in charge.
The Astros, predictably, are also the franchise that had the “I’m so fucking glad we got Osuna!” issue.
These aren’t issues that only happen with employees of an organization. These are issues that are carried out by employees within a culture of an organization. The culture is created from the top by the people they hire and the values they set. Jim Crane shouldn’t be let off the hook. Jeff Passan, in his article (also referenced earlier), states “Either Crane did not know that the business he owns and operates was cheating or he did know and did nothing about it. Neither is good.”
Agreed. Either he’s complicit or he’s lost organizational control.
How about a post season ban
The NCAA, which isn’t immune from cheating by any means, has a punishment that professional organizations should consider: post season bans. No playoffs. No World Series. Imagine handing the Houston Astros a five year post season ban where they lose all of their first and second round draft picks through the duration of the ban, so they can’t tank during this time to get better. I can. This would inflict some pain.
While we’re at it, we might as well institute another NCAA tool that forces institutions to vacate wins and titles for seasons where severe cheating was uncovered. This would be an additional sting to accompany the post season ban. The Astros wouldn’t be able to display their 2017 Word Series flag in their stadium, reference it in any of their materials, or sell merchandise referencing it.
Major League Baseball needs to find the gumption to actually punish its owners. If not, then the MLB is complicit in the cheating that occurs.
This post also applies to the NFL regarding the New England Patriots.
Joey Cora was fired by the Boston Red Sox for his role in sign stealing while a bench coach for the Astros.
Carlos Beltran has been fired by the New York Mets for his role in sign stealing as a member of the Astros.
- LA Times: Dodgers definitely were cheated out of 2017 World Series title by Astros’ sign-stealing
- ESPN: Why anger is boiling behind the scenes about Houston Astros’ sign-stealing punishments
- ESPN: The five biggest victims of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal
- The Guardian: How the Houston Astros went from champions to a shamed shambles
- ESPN: The history of sign stealing in baseball – video
- Om Malik: Just get paid & our culture of lies
Growing up as a sports fan in Michigan during the 80s and 90s allowed me to witness a lot of winning and losing via the professional teams in Detroit. The Tigers of the 80s, the Red Wings of the 90s, the Pistons of the 80s and 90s, and, well, the Lions. My favorite players during that time remain my favorite players to this day: Joe Dumars, Steve Yzerman, Barry Sanders, and Lou Whitaker. Each of these players were the best, or nearly the best at what they did in their respective leagues. Three of these players–nothing more Barry could do for the Lions–helped lead their teams to league titles.
What set these players apart from their talented peers for me was how they handled themselves, at least in public. They were quiet leaders. They did the little things to make their teams better. They appreciated the greatness of others. They weren’t boastful or looking for the spot light–they are humble. It is important to note that I don’t have any issues with flashy players. I am, like many, attracted to the highly talented, but yet unassuming athletes, and probably to that type of person in general. There are certainly exceptions on both ends.
No hall, yet, for Whitaker
Dumars, Yzerman, and Sanders are all in their respective sports halls of fame. Whitaker recently came up short again for baseball’s. I think it is a shame. The arguments for enshrining Whitaker seem overwhelming. I thought this was the year he was going to get in. Over the past decade I have been working to not allow sports to have a negative impact on me. For the most part this has been successful. However, I struggled this past month with Whitaker not getting enshrined.
The Detroit Tigers just announced that they are going to retire Whitaker’s jersey this next season. It is long overdue. The Tigers have a history of only retiring the numbers of the players after they have entered the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Tigers know Whitaker’s rightful place and have made a stand.
The next opportunity Whitaker has to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame is in 2022.
Here’s to 2022 for Sweet Lou.
Worth reading: Tigers’ decision to retire Lou Whitaker’s number brings ‘moment of joy’ by Cody Stavenhagen at The Athletic (paywall).
29 November 2019 update: I deleted my Instagram account today.
The decision to leave Instagram took me a while to act on. I knew I was going to go, but I didn’t necessarily want to leave. Twitter was easy. I stopped checking and posting on Twitter in October 2017. Twitter was an unnecessary source of anxiety and a time suck. My quality of life improved right away. Instagram doesn’t cause me anxiety. It isn’t a time suck for me either. The issue is Facebook, Instagram’s parent company. I struggle to find any evidence that Facebook cares for the people that use their service. A topic for another day.
Like my Twitter account, I haven’t deleted my Instagram account. I just won’t be logging in and participating.
Here are a few photos from my Instagram account.