4th and a Mile with Paul Muth
Cheating isn't as bad if it happens in Boston
On Wednesday afternoon Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred handed down his punishment to the Boston Red Sox yesterday for what amounted to almost the exact same infractions the Houston Astros had been accused of doing one season before.
Their former manager, Alex Cora, was suspended through the 2020 season, but not for anything he did with the Red Sox. Their replay system operator was suspended a year without pay, and their 2020 second round pick was stripped.
Comparatively, the Astros' manager and general manager were suspended for a year, they were stripped of their first and second round picks for this year and next, and they were fined a league maximum $5 million.
In what world does this make any sense?
The justification is that their cheating had less buy-in and was less coordinated. So their cheating was, in essence, less cheating.
If Major League Baseball was trying to send a message that cheating was a zero-tolerance offense, they did a terrible job demonstrating that yesterday.
It cannot be argued that the Astros cheated, nor should it. The issue now is regarding the perception of favoritism in the application of punishment.
The Astros were fined $5 million dollars. The Red Sox were not fined a cent. So this is, on its face, implying that the Red Sox--who electronically stole signs like the Astros--did nothing worthy of a fine. If this line of reasoning makes sense, I'm happy to be corrected.
Now, should the punishments have been the exact same? No, not at all. The Astros admittedly did operate their sign stealing scheme on a reportedly much larger scale. But the Red Sox punishment is laughable and forgettable in comparison.
It's safe to say that Manfred was in a lose-lose situation. It's also safe to say that it's possible to pick a worse way to lose between his options. Whenever cheating is involved, however, it's always better to be as heavy handed as possible. Look at NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. When the New England Patriots were accused of deflating footballs, the investigation proved inconclusive. In spite of that, Goodell suspended quarterback Tom Brady four games, fined the organization $1 million dollars, and took two draft picks away. The Patriots took it on the chin and moved forward, just as the Astros did. The Red Sox, however, probably didn't even feel the punch.
At the end of the day, Manfred will be applauded by the owners for spinning the electronic sign stealing problem as the act of a lone-wolf scheme that the Astros committed on their own. History will forget the Red Sox culpability, as well as the dozen or so other teams that current and former players have spoken out about as having committed the same crime that were never investigated. Instead of this issue becoming the next Mitchell Report-style black eye on a sport that is almost synonymous with rule bending, Manfred has effectively pinned the entire problem on the Astros' shoulders for history to frown upon.
So if any Astros fans were looking for some solace in he long delayed Red Sox punishment, it is safe to say that it is nowhere to be found.