I could see where Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred was coming from at first.
To get the truth from Astros players involved in the 2017 sign-stealing scandal, he cut a deal with the MLB Player’s Association to grant amnesty for those willing to step forward and explain how everything went down.
It’s safe to assume that their testimonies brought light to the situation as we learned of cameras in center field, TV monitors just beyond the dugout, and a whole lot of trash-can banging.
Manfred proceeded to suspend AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow — which led to their firings — while fining the organization $5 million and taking away four draft picks over the next two years.
The $5 million is pocket change to a team worth nearly $2 billion while the cards are usually stacked against high draft picks succeeding at the MLB level.
That’s it. That’s all the Astros got for partaking in one of the largest cheating scandals in baseball history.
Players like Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman who partook in the illegal acts are getting off scot-free.
That already was an unfortunate side effect of cutting the deal with MLBPA, but the baseball world was irked even further by the decision after the players’ weak apologies. Or, in the case of Carlos Correa, aggressive denial that only made the Astros look worse.
It was Correa who said the trash-can banging stopped during the 2017 postseason that led to their World Series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Manfred, however, recently confirmed that Houston did continue their scheme during the playoffs.
Needless to say, the Yankees and Dodgers have been some of the more boisterous critics of Manfred and the Astros over the last week or so. Houston defeated New York in the ALCS before taking down Los Angeles in the World Series that year.
And they have every right to feel the way that they do.
Not only were they cheated out of a fair postseason series, but they see the players who benefitted from the system enter the 2020 season without the slightest slap on the wrist. Spare me the thought that public backlash is a proper punishment.
While that fateful deal with the MLBPA is hampering proper justice from being handed down, Manfred can still make this right by stripping the Astros of their 2017 World Series title and taking away Jose Altuve’s American League MVP award.
That doesn’t mean the Dodgers are awarded the title or Yankees slugger Aaron Judge gets the MVP. The titles would simply remain vacant for the rest of time.
We’ve seen it before, though in very different contexts. John McGraw’s feud with the American League saw his New York Giants boycott the 1904 World Series.
Major League Baseball didn’t give the championship to the Boston Americans (now Red Sox) that year. It remained vacant.
The same goes for the 1994 strike-shortened season that very well could have saved the Montreal Expos franchise. They had the best record in baseball at 74-40 when the season stopped and was abandoned.
No championship was awarded that year.
Now, with the largest scandal on Major League Baseball’s hands since the 1919 White Sox — who intentionally threw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds — Manfred must take away the trophy, take away the rings, remove the banners, and wipe any evidence from the record books that the Astros won a World Series.
That’s the only way he and MLB will gain a sliver of respect back from its players and the fans.