The Baseball Cheaters: Ban. Them. All.

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DENVER, COStiff. Astonishing. Harsh. Hard-line. Unprecedented. These are all adjectives used to describe the punishment received by the Houston Astros. All of them are inaccurate, though, particularly the most overused word in the sports world in the past week; unprecedented. Is it unprecedented that a baseball team was fined and had draft picks taken away? No. Was it unprecedented that a manager and front office personnel were suspended? No. Was in unprecedented to have caught an individual or organization inside baseball cheating? No.

This is not baseball’s first come to Jesus meeting with itself and it won’t be the last. The Black Sox rigged a world series. Pete Rose bet on baseball. The Steroid Era. A Cardinals staffer went to prison for “hacking” the Astros employees who never changed their passwords. George Brett had 18 inches of pine tar. Whitey Herzog even formally complained that the Brewers mascot was relaying signs in the 80s. If the mascot can get in on the funny business then anything is possible and thus the current situation certainly is not unprecedented.

What is unprecedented, however, is the failure by the league office to uphold the precedent for failures of integrity. The Black Sox players were banned. Pete Rose was banned. The Steroid users have been banned from the Hall and active players face stiff penalties. Cardinals analyst Chris Correa was banned. George Brett’s bat was banned. The Brewers Mascot Bernie The Brewer? Well, he got off.

Bernie_The_Brewer, MLB_Cheaters, Joey_Cora, Alex_Cora, Chiefs, Cam_James, Meet_The_Matts

Overall, this penalty for fundamentally altering the course of play is not even a slap on the wrist. Five million is the largest fine allowable by some agreement somewhere in baseball law. That’s all well and good. The picks? I have read numerous articles wherein perspectives are taken from scouting personnel on the penalty and the consensus when those types are interviewed is, “Man these penalties are harsh. It would be really hard to do our job starting in the third round.” The problem with this take is that losing picks in baseball means nothing compared to Football, Basketball, or Hockey. In those sports first round picks play immediately, and second rounders often do in Football and Basketball. In baseball only 49% of first round picks ever play a game in the show. Second rounders it’s only 33%. Given the Astros were so good last year and their roster is still good, they are giving up let’s say, ~two 27th picks. Given these players are closer to the second than the first round picks let’s say in the four picks they lose they are losing 1.2 players that EVER PLAY A GAME IN THE SHOW! Oh, and by the way, almost half the Astros roster was never in the draft because the first time players draft only encompasses domestic players.

So this punishment really means they now have to spend ten million more in the next two years in the D.R. instead of signing domestic talent to peanuts contracts. In effect it isn’t even a penalty it is a reallocation of resources.

Beyond the penalties being lax I am extremely disappointed in the commissioner’s office for posing the rhetoric that “The effect of the astros stealing signs can’t be quantified”. Yes it absolutely can. Early research Sports Illustrated published showed that the Astros chased less pitches out of the zone during cheating circumstances. Imagine being down in the count 0-2 and knowing the next pitch was a slider out of the zone. This is the tip of the Iceberg. If you give a couple harvard egghead interns a few cases of red bull and a summer to watch the entire 162 game astros slate they would likely be able to tell you that George Springer had the most leadoff Home Runs in the league because he only swung at fastballs he knew were coming.

That brings me to the players.

The players who propagated the scheme were willing participants in a moral turpitude offense. Their actions were at the very least a violation of the Seinfeld good Samaritan law for the bystanders and tantamount to grand larceny for the participants. When you interview at any store like Best Buy they give you psychological tests to prevent shrinkage. Stuff like, “If you saw Short Matt take a candy bar from the store and eat it without paying for it would you tell your manager?” All of the players and coaches for the Astros would have failed that test. These clowns are getting paid millions of dollars when they wouldn’t be given a job at your local electronics store.

Baseball was a game of integrity. Before now the sports world taught our children that you can’t cheat unless your a member of the Patriots and you aren’t ever going to play football at that level so it doesn’t matter. Now instead of at least making an effort to hold those players accountable we have sent the message to our children that it’s ok to cheat. When you get caught you won’t face any consequences even if your name isn’t Tom Brady.

BAN THEM ALL. PERIOD.

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About the Author ()

Cam James hails from Missouri and is a down-the-line St. Louis fan: Rams, Cards, Blues... Thus his occasional "Ram Rules" column. He hates Kansas basketball, lives in Denver, been a wrestler, dabbled in Ultimate Fighting and plays hardball. Oh, and he's Opie Taylor white.

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