MLB cheating scandal: are we really surprised it happened?



Former Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch.

COLIN HORNING, Sports Editor

In most years, the Major League Baseball offseason is a fun time for many of us who follow the game. It’s a time of not only keeping up to date on where the highest-profile free agents will land or what our favorite ball clubs will do in order to improve themselves, but also a time for speculation about potential trade scenarios, managers being hired and fired, and the overall fun that comes with seeing players and coaches change teams. But while this MLB offseason has definitely had its share of trades and signings, there has been one overlaying story that has blanketed the entire winter: the cheating scandal associated with multiple recent World Series champions.

The 2017 Houston Astros won the Fall Classic in seven games over the Los Angeles Dodgers, capturing the franchise’s first World Series in its history. The team was masterfully assembled by general manager Jeff Luhnow, with players such as 2017 AL MVP Jose Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa and outfielder George Springer leading the way, under the eye of manager (and Iowa native) A.J. Hinch. However, in November of 2019, sports website The Athletic reported that the Astros had used a television camera to steal signs from the opposing team during their home games at Minute Maid Park. Upon further investigation, Major League Baseball concluded that the scandal was legitimate, and handed down multiple penalties to the Astros. Luhnow and Hinch were fired only an hour after initially being suspended for the whole season by the MLB, and the franchise was stripped of multiple draft picks and required to pay a $5 million fine to the MLB.

Most fans of professional baseball are outraged by the Astros cheating scandal, and understandably so. In a survey done by ESPN, nearly three-quarters of fans surveyed say that they support further punishments by the MLB towards Houston (as well as the Boston Red Sox, who were also caught in a similar cheating scandal). Similarly, another three-quarters of fans surveyed say that they believe that most MLB teams use technology to steal signs, but only the Astros and Red Sox were the ones to get caught.

Cheating unfortunately happens in sports across many levels of competition all the time. We as fans like to believe that the games we watch are played purely and without anything malicious going on, but it’s just simply naive to think that it’s only Boston and Houston who were cheating. When it comes down to it, there’s so much we as fans don’t see going on behind the scenes of the game. It’s likely that nearly every MLB team steals signs, and that NFL teams spy on each other to learn their opponent’s playbook, along with other instances of bending the rules. And of course there are teams out there who play fair, and they might have been successful while doing so. But as Super Bowl Champion and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana puts it: “In sports, if you ain’t cheating, then you ain’t trying.”