Hardly anyone walking on Earth today was alive when the 1919 Black Sox Scandal rocked the Major League Baseball world.
It was, and still is, one of the biggest scandals in professional sports history. Eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. The heavily favored White Sox lost the nine-game World Series 5-3, in part because of the actions of the players, who intentionally played poorly to influence the outcome of the series.
All eight players, including one of the best players of his generation, Shoeless Joe Jackson, were banned from baseball after the scandal was found out. Jackson, with a .356 career batting average, would have been a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Instead, he was kicked out of the sport in the prime of his career and never has been selected to the Hall.
But while we have to go through archives and read books and articles about that sordid scandal, another one took place before our very eyes.
It doesn't involve accepting gambling money and intentionally losing games, but it does involve outside influences affecting the result of a World Series.
The Houston Astros won the 2017 World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers with the help of illegally stealing signs. A camera in the outfield would film the catcher's signals to the pitcher. The signs would be decoded by someone watching the video at a computer behind the dugout, who would then relay the information to someone in the dugout sitting next to a trash can. If a change-up were about to be thrown, the person would bang on the trash can. If a fastball was coming, there would be no bangs.
Essentially, Astros batters knew what pitch was coming and could prepare for it. It's no surprise the Astros won all four of the 2017 World Series games they played at home, while losing all three on the road.
Because they had home-field advantage for the series, all they needed to win were their home games to be champions. The illegal sign-stealing setup helped make sure that happened.
Major League Baseball levied pretty severe penalties on the organization last week. The general manager and manager were suspended from baseball for one year (and later fired by the team's owner), the team was fined $5 million and forfeited both first and second-round draft picks from the 2020 and 2021 draft.
But despite those penalties, the 2017 World Series banner still hangs at the Astros stadium. The team's name is still engraved on the World Series trophy, and record will still say the Houston Astros are the 2017 World Series champion.
So, apparently the cheating was worth it. Managers and general managers are replaceable and who is to say the draft picks that the team forfeits would be good players, anyway? Cheating helped the Astros win a World Series title, which the team will be keeping.
It is a championship that the team does not deserve. The only acceptable punishment would be to make the team vacate the championship. Every player on that team, except maybe the pitchers, were complicit in the scheme. They may not have had anything to do with setting the cameras up or decoding the signs, but every time they stepped to the plate and listened for the banging of the trash can, they participated.
A team that cheats that brazenly doesn't deserve to keep it's championship trophy. It's a shame the Astros will get to keep theirs.
— Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org