Beyond the Scoreboard: Take Some Notes, Major League Baseball


UEFA’s severe punishment for Manchester City set a precedent that the MLB should follow with the Astros. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Baseball players and fans alike vehemently believe the punishment did not fit the crime in regards to the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. Considering what was recently done to England’s Manchester City for violating the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) financial fair-play rules, Major League Baseball (MLB) may need to re-evaluate its position on Houston’s current punishment.

The Astros became sports’ biggest villain when an investigation revealed the team engaged in sign-stealing during the 2017 season, which ultimately resulted in a World Series Title. To make matters worse, the reaction from Astros owner Jim Crane, along with prominent players like all-stars Carlos Correa and José Altuve, have displayed half-hearted contrition for the biggest scandal the MLB has seen since the “steroid era” that ran rampant from the late 1980s through the mid-2000s.

However, various current players and baseball fans of all cities are responding with outrage to the punishment handed down from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. Last month, it was announced that general manager Jeff Luhlow and manager A.J. Hinch would be suspended for the 2020 season. Houston also forfeited four draft picks and was fined $5 million.

Ideally, a punishment that includes suspensions, loss of draft picks and a fine should satiate baseball’s constituents. But when put under the proverbial microscope, it is easy to discern Manfred’s discipline as nothing more than an innocuous slap on the wrist. For starters, Luhlow and Hinch were immediately fired from the team following MLB’s announcement. The loss of four draft picks? While some organizations may find this to be a backbreaker in building a contender, the Astros are one of the few teams that will endure it. Houston’s core players, led by the aforementioned Correa and Altuve, are in their mid to late 20s.

With the team’s best players still in their respective primes, Houston will be expected to contend for the foreseeable future, essentially rendering the four lost picks as nothing more than “throwaway” late-round selections that may hit or miss. As for the $5 million fine? Merely chump change for Crane, who has a net worth of approximately $2.5 billion.

In an interview with ESPN, Manfred was asked why the MLB did not take the punishment a step further and consider stripping Houston of their 2017 World Series title. Manfred justified his decision by saying, “The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act. People will always know that something was different about the 2017 season, and whether we made that decision right or wrong, we undertook a thorough investigation, and had the intestinal fortitude to share the results of that investigation, even when those results were not very pretty.”

When the commissioner refers to the most coveted trophy in his sport as “a piece of metal,” it gives baseball fans caution to pause and begin speculating whether Manfred is the ideal person for such a valuable position.

While Manfred’s decision-making has undergone criticism, those enamored with soccer saw one of Europe’s most prominent soccer clubs severely punished by UEFA for a different form of cheating. Manchester City of England was found guilty of several violations relating to financial fair-play rules and club licensing. The rules were originally intended by UEFA to diminish the increasing disparity in European leagues between rich and poor soccer clubs.

In its statement, UEFA stated that City was “overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016.”

By funneling money through sponsorship agreements with companies such as Etihad, the club avoided the fair-play regulations set by UEFA. Now, City finds itself on the receiving end of a two-year ban from the Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious club tournament, and was also fined 30 million euros, which translates to roughly $32.5 million.

When putting both Houston and Manchester City’s crimes side to side, there is no doubt the Astros committed the bigger infraction in terms of compromising the integrity of its respective sport. What City did was use financial loopholes in its pursuit of building the best club possible, something every prominent sports franchise looks to manipulate in order to maintain success.

And for that violation, City is going to be fined over $27 million more than the Astros and unless they win an appeal, they won’t participate in arguably the biggest soccer tournament outside of the World Cup for two years. Imagine if the MLB banned Houston from qualifying for the next two postseasons and fined the Astros that amount of money.

However, that is not what MLB players and fans are asking for. Instead, the Astros should have to relinquish the 2017 World Series trophy. Individual players should not be suspended, and it is too late to explore that option now since Manfred gave them immunity for their cooperation.

Instead, stripping them of the sole championship in franchise history would ultimately nullify the 2017 season and officially erase Houston from that section of the record book. Even though we are witnesses to their World Series win, we did not know how it ultimately came into fruition. Blatant cheating occurred on the Astros part, and sufficient punishment needs to be swiftly dealt with to ensure the game’s integrity against any form of deception in sports.