4th and a Mile with Paul Muth

Cheating isn't as bad if it happens in Boston

JD Martinez
Boston Red Sox/Facebook

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.

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Cristian Javier is in better shape this season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.

Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).

Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.

But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.

In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.

Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.

The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.

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