ARLINGTON, TX - MARCH 31: Houston Astros Second base Jose Altuve (27) laughs while in the dugout ... [+] during the baseball game between the Houst
Contrary to popular belief, the way Major League Baseball officials just (ahem) punished the Houston Astros deserves a yawn.
It’s also laughable.
Unless you believe tooth fairies are your neighbors, the sun is made of ice and Bobby Thomson really hadn’t a clue a high fastball was coming in 1951 when he ripped the most famous pennant-winning home run in baseball history, you should know MLB doesn’t care about cheaters unless they’re caught in a highly publicized way.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Baseball officials gave Pete Rose a lifetime ban for gambling on his Cincinnati Reds to win. In contrast, they announced Monday that they aren’t kicking general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch out of the game forever for allowing their Astros to cheat like crazy along the way to the 2017 world championship.
Neither are they doing the right thing by stripping the Astros of that title.
They’re giving Luhnow and Hinch nothing more than one-game suspensions, and they’re docking the Astros a couple of future draft picks while fining the franchise a record $5 million for using cameras, coaches and even a garbage can at home games during that season and parts of 2018 to steal signs from opponents.
Astros owner Jim Crane can find that money between the seat cushions of his favorite sofa since he has the game’s 10th-most valuable franchise at $1.8 billion.
Oh, and even though a slew of Astros players were involved with the cheating, guess how many were disciplined by baseball officials?
Yeah, Crane fired Luhnow and Hinch, but it’s not as if they’ll never work again, because they will. And, yeah, if baseball officials did fine or suspend players for GarbageCanGate, the MLB Players Association would have huffed and puffed, but you know what?
If baseball officials really cared about stopping cheaters, they would have nailed those players anyway.
The bottom line . . .
Baseball officials really don’t care.
Did you ever hear about that Major League coach who stood in the corner of his home dugout during the 2007 season with a buzzer in his pocket? Probably not, because this is a revelation from Bobby Ball, whose real name is something else. He prefers anonymity since he’s active as a Major League coach after playing for multiple teams from the 1990s into this century.
To hear Bobby Ball tell it, with much help from stadium cameras and others on the home team, that coach in the corner of the home dugout was tipped off what pitch was coming through his buzzer.
Then the coach would tell his hitter across the way.
“If it was a fastball, the coach might say the hitter’s first name or last name or number,” Bobby Ball said. “If it was an off-speed pitch, he wouldn’t say anything, and believe me: It’s HUGE for a hitter to know what’s coming.
“If you have two strikes, and if you know an off-speed pitch is going to start a little higher (out of the pitcher’s hand), it’s going to be a strike. If you know it’s going to start low, it’s going to be in the dirt.
“So when you see a hitter chasing a nasty changeup or slider in the dirt, he didn’t know what was coming.
“When you see a hitter sitting on a nasty pitch, he probably knew it was going to be in the dirt, and he let it go to set up a hitter’s count to look for a fastball that he can rip into the gap somewhere.”
Just so you know, Bobby Ball stole signs during his day without the use of electronics, but he could spot those who used them. He was on the opposing team back then that alerted MLB officials about that coach in the corner of the home dugout with a buzzer.
“At the time, Major League Baseball didn’t want a scandal,” Bobby Ball said. “So when we told them to observe what was going on with that team using that coach in the corner during games, they wouldn’t do it. They decided to just pull them aside before a game to tell them not to do it again.
“You know how long that lasted.”
It didn’t. As was the case before and after Thomson’s “Shot heard around the world” to help the Giants win the pennant, that team with the coach in the corner of the home dugout kept cheating.
So did others, leading to the Boston Red Sox using Apple Watches in 2017 to steal signs.
The universe only discovered the Red Sox’s watch obsession through the tattling of the New York Yankees, the most visible team in baseball and the Red Sox’s Great Satan. Baseball officials said they fined the Red Sox for the incident, but (surprise, surprise) they never said how much.
Whatever the amount, it didn’t faze a Boston franchise that is the game’s third-highest team in value at $3.2 billion.
The Red Sox proceeded to cheat their way to a World Series title in 2018 with manager Alex Cora, the same guy in the middle of the Astros scandal the year before as their bench coach. None of this surfaced about Cora and the Astros until former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic in November to trigger a public explosion.
Baseball had to do something.
So any moment now, baseball is supposed to announce its (ahem) punishment of Cora, and the word is, he’ll get spanked more than his former Astros colleagues. You know, something like a one-season suspension, with no peanuts and Cracker Jack for a month after he returns to games.