Updated: Feb 12, 2020
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Steroids ruined baseball the first time. Big power hitters come in, hit 50-plus homeruns, and they become must-watch TV. Of course, there was and will continue to be skepticism in baseball success, but until players were caught, there wasn't a "problem." We now have a "problem."
Cheating has always been a deplorable yet existing issue in baseball. You can look at anything from the 1919 White Sox World Series fix, corked bats, doctored balls, illegal pine tar use, and spit balls to Pete Rose's gambling or any steroid user - cheating has been in baseball for as long as one can remember. And now we have this debacle.
The Houston Astros have been found guilty of electronically stealing signs during their 2017 World Series title run and part of the 2018 season, and the effects are being felt around the baseball world. Not to breeze over one of the most significant punishments in baseball history ($5 million fine, four draft picks, and the suspension of both manager and general manager), but Alex Cora has now been fired because of the scandal. Now Carlos Beltran has been fired because of the scandal. And while we're all pissed off about cheating, let's point some fingers at Hall of Fame coach, Tony La Russa, who was accused by former Cy Young winner, Jack McDowell, of using a toggle switch to control a light in center field while stealing the catcher's signs.
That's a bit to unpack.
Is baseball gonna persist and push through this? Of course it will. Is the cheating scandal cheapening and delegitimizing the sport? Of course it is. When players started getting busted for steroids left and right, it knocked the sport down a peg. Anytime a new slugger comes around and has a breakout season, we can't enjoy it and admire it as an incredible demonstration of athletic ability. We are now trained to respond with, "well… maybe he's on steroids."
Well, the sport just got knocked down a peg again. With more rumors about wires under jerseys and Hall of Fame coaches with toggle switches, I'm worried that cheating will have the same effect on fans as steroids. Will we still be able to watch a team have a couple breakout seasons without thinking that maybe, just maybe… they cheated? I understand that this type of scandal is a mini phenomenon and isn't as common as steroids, but it just might be influential enough to cause this effect.
Now, I'm all for a bad guy. Every sport needs one. Every sport needs a Patrick Reed to roll up in all black and dig up sand in his backswing. A Bryce Harper back in D.C. kind of bad guy. It makes sports more interesting. Not only do you have a team/person to root for, but you now you have someone to root against. However, there's a fine line between a bad guy that makes the sport more interesting and a bad guy that makes the sport flat out worse, and I'm afraid that the Houston Astros have crossed that line.
In a recent interview with "The Today Show," Hank Aaron, one of the kings of baseball, acknowledged that people stole signs back when he was playing, but "they didn't steal 'em that way." He went on to say "I think whoever did that, should be out of baseball the rest of their life." The Astros incurred one of the biggest punishments in sports history, but 86-year-old, Hank Aaron, considers it still not enough.
What all started with an intern with a PowerPoint suggesting Operation "Codebreaker," now has shaken the sport to its core. The rules are written, and the Houston Astros have broken them. Baseball will move forward, but the effects of this scandal will remain. Nevertheless, enjoy booing the bad guy.