Knowledge has a way of making things… complicated. What was once a story of redemption has now devolved into a tangled web of ridiculous lies and a maddening lack of accountability. The virus of this scandal has now spread beyond the walls of Minute Maid park and into locker rooms and offices throughout Major League Baseball, activating a level of unprecedented tribalism among fans and players alike.
Commissioner Rob Manfred has done nothing but fan the flames of fury fired in all directions, and in a train wreck of a press conference made mention that the public will inflict enough punishment to justify his own lack of action (something I praised him for initially, but has obviously aged quite poorly). This notion, even in its most positive light, validates a lot of theories that Manfred is disconnected from the game itself, and doesn’t have much of a personal investment in its integrity. I’m too young to back this statement up from experience, but…. Damn do I wish Bart Giamatti were here to handle this.
There have been many different types of punishments floated among fans, players, teams, and MLB executives alike, ranging from lifetime bans to ultimately stripping the team of its World Series title, and simply vacating that year in the history books.
STRONG OPINION COMING:
The idea of vacating a World Series title, something completely unprecedented in the history of baseball is ridiculous.
Despite what anyone in Atlanta says, Barry Bonds is baseball’s Home Run King. Pete Rose has the most hits of any player, ever. The Cincinnati Reds won the 1919 World Series, even if the Black Sox threw the series.
All of these facts are indisputably true. They happened in real time, by real people, and are documented as such. The common thread is that each one of these accomplishments comes with enough baggage attached to it, that the gravity of the claim invalidates it to the point that it’s become accepted culture among the baseball public.
THIS is how we deal with the 2017 Astros. This is how we levy the appropriate punishment while also moving the game forward. Baseball is rife with imperfect history. From the exclusion of black players to gambling to PED’s the game has shown itself to be a frustratingly human institution, just like the people who populate it.
The 2017 World Series was exciting. It was dramatic. I remember sitting in my living room, watching game 5 unfold and uttering aloud “are you kidding me?” at least twice. In all the World Series games that I’ve watched, this series gave fans the joyus gift of not one, but TWO epic contests worthy of immortal rememberance.
Yet here we are, just three years later, unravelling the sign stealing scheme that made it all possible. It is the gradual lifting of the veil, revealing the darkest truth about our most sacred ritual.
Despite Manfred’s dismissive delivery and overall aloof demeanor, he does hit on a certain point about the scandal. Should he levy punishment on the players, that would satisfy our short term anger, and to be fair, place a tangible action to the Astros transgressions. It makes sense, and I wouldn’t argue against SOME kind of action, short of the absurdity of abdicating titles, a postseason ban, or something of that ilk.
If he doesn’t though, the responsibility DOES lie with the baseball public to bring down the judgement. After all, it is OUR game. Sure, there are people to police it and make sure that the integrity of the product we pay for (by way of ticket prices or our tax dollars for stadiums) is not only of the upmost quality, but is being played, as they say “on the level”. But the history books are written by us. The ultimate goal for a baseball player is immortality, to be remembered by their peers and their fans for their accomplishments. To take that from them is not only the supreme punishment to a player, but also a display of power from the fans themselves. Forcing that air of universal disdain when Justin Verlander takes the stage at his eventual Hall of Fame induction is a punishment that has no shelf life.
The truth is, there is no “reasonable” punishment that could be levied against the Astros of 2017 that would not set some kind of catastrophic precedent, or tangibly help the situation as we roll toward another round of increasingly tense labor negotiations. Consequences must be handled by those who hold the most power, us.
Rather than undo the past, let’s control the future.