The last few days have been bad for Major League Baseball but pretty good for the New York Yankees.
Monday saw MLB administer severe punishments for the Houston Astros for their sign-stealing scandal during the 2017 season that — as noted in commissioner Rob Manfred’s nine-page report — helped them win their first-ever World Series title.
To get to the Fall Classic that season, though, Houston had to get through the Yankees in a seven-game slugfest that surely has many in the Bronx up in arms.
The Astros won each of their home games at Minute Maid Park, which is where the scandal took place.
Cameras placed in center field relayed the opposing catcher’s sign to a television monitor in the clubhouse tunnel where an attendant would relay what was coming to the Astros’ batter by banging on a trash can.
For example: If a fastball was coming, no bang. If a curveball was on the way, two bangs.
It’s understandable why Yankees fans are feeling cheated. We’ve asked the Yankees on multiple occasions for a comment or to at least confirm that they are prohibited to say anything as instructed by MLB, but they have yet to return our inquiries.
Justice was served on Monday when Manfred suspended manager AJ Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow for one season while fining the Astros $5 million and taking their first and second-round draft picks away for the next two years.
Hinch and Luhnow were subsequently fired by owner Jim Crane.
That’s an obvious huge blow to one of the Yankees’ direct competitors for the American League pennant in 2020 as they are slated to make a serious run at title No. 28 this October.
Things got even better for them when on Tuesday, the mastermind of the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme and the manager of New York’s arch-rival Boston Red Sox, Alex Cora, “mutually” parted ways with the organization.
In other words, the Red Sox saw the writing on the wall and gave Cora the ultimatum of labeling his departure as a parting of ways or a firing.
“Given the findings and the Commissioner’s ruling, we collectively decided that it would not be possible for Alex to effectively lead the club going forward and we mutually agreed to part ways,” the Red Sox said in a statement.
MLB has yet to announce its punishments for Cora because they are completing their investigation of a separate allegation claiming that he also stole signs while at the helm of the Red Sox in 2018.
Coincidentally enough, the Red Sox put up a 108-win season, relegated the Yankees to a Wild Card berth, beat them in the ALDS, and went on to beat the Dodgers in the World Series.
It’s little consolation for both the Yankees and Dodgers, but at least it’s something for a suspicion that has been nagging at baseball for the last two years.
But is the punishment enough?
Right now, no.
The Astros counteracted the suspensions of Hinch and Luhnow by firing them both. They can scour the league for the best possible options to take over immediately. They might not have to go too far to find their manager, either. Bench coach Joe Espada interviewed with multiple teams for a managerial in recent months and is an early favorite to take over.
The same goes for the Red Sox, who could very well have made the Cora decision with haste to find their new clubhouse boss as soon as possible considering pitchers and catchers already report next month.
In terms of Houston’s secondary subtractions, $5 million is pocket change for an organization worth billions while the chances of first and second-round draft picks making it to the majors and sustaining success are at 66-percent and 49-percent respectively.
If MLB truly wanted to punish these organizations and make a legitimate example of them, the players who partook in the sign-stealing should also face suspensions. Both the Astros and Red Sox have talented rosters that can win now in spite of management changes. To truly deter other teams from stealing signs, sidelining their best players for a considerable amount of time is the ultimate way to do so.
After all, they truly benefited the most.
Just look at some notable Astros players’ numbers during that 2017 postseason:
Home: .472 BA, 1.541 OPS
Road: .143 BA, .497 OPS
Home: .273 BA, .857 OPS
Away: .154 BA, .508 OPS
Home: .371 BA, 1.164 OPS
Road: .211 BA, .626 OPS
If all three of those players were forced to watch from the bench for say, the entire 2020 season, you won’t see teams trying to steal signs. Nor would you see players partaking in such an act knowing serious repercussions are waiting for them.