With Spring around the corner each year my thoughts turn to a new baseball season. A new beginning, hope springs eternal (Let's Go Mets!). Except that this year, I have been reflecting on the sign stealing controversy surrounding the Houston Astros. After reading a number of articles in the newspapers and on line, I felt I needed to put in my own two cents, so I drafted a letter and sent it off to MLB, the editorial pages of the New York Times and Daily News and along with ESPN Baseball Tonight, MLB Network and SNY Baseball Night in New York. Crazy right?
I have printed the letter below if you are interested in reading it and if you would like to respond, I would like to hear your thoughts on this matter as well. Thanks for checking it out and Happy Spring (almost).
I grew up with an understanding that cheating is cheating and although baseball has had a long history with sign stealing, it was on an “even" playing field. For example, to see the height or position of a pitchers glove as to whether they are about to throw a fastball or a breaking ball or runners on second base picking up the signs from the catcher and relaying their belief to the hitter; however the use of cameras, garbage cans and/or electronic devices is, I believe we can all agree, cheating.
So, I would like to ask the question, what makes this cheating OK, while what Barry Bonds, Roger Clemons and others are accused of not OK? It is considered that these players had an unfair advantage, but let’s look at the Astros home and away batting averages for the seasons in question and there is no doubt that they fared much better at home than on the road. It can be said that their pitching was so good that it kept them in those close games on the road masking their road statistics.
The second part of this I believe is how did this affect the betting line when it came to the Astros games? It is a fact that legalized betting on sports is bigger than ever. If their actions affected the betting line of their games what is the difference then for players such as Pete Rose or Shoeless Joe Jackson? These players are banned for life. I do not see anywhere near the equivalent for the Astros players.
I am not implying that the Astros players should be banned for life for their actions, but I believe one possible solution is to take away their World Series for the year in question. Return the trophy (or as the commissioner calls it, a "piece of metal") and baseball would simply have no champion for that year. However I do believe that if this ruling stands concerning the Astros, then maybe this is the right time to lift the ban on banned players such as Joe Jackson, Pete Rose and let's get Barry Bonds, Roger Clemons and the rest into the Hall. I do believe that the integrity of the game is at stake (as it was during the Black Sox era and as it was in the steroid era) and we should not be teaching our youngest fans that certain types of cheating is OK, but not others. Baseball needs to take a step back and rethink their position and make the tough choice, one way or the other, but the current resolution should not be accepted by any fan of the game.
To set the record straight, I hear the response as, if we clear their names then we are condoning cheating within the game past, present and future. I would just add the following, America is noted for the ability to allow second chances. We may not forget, but we have the capacity to forgive most transgressions, so why not Shoeless Joe Jackson (note his stats in the 1919 World Series) or players like Pete Rose or Barry Bonds (who have equipment and are recognized already by the Hall of Fame, sanctioned by Major League Baseball).
How will baseball be remembered in this moment?