To Robert D. Manfred Jr.
Major League Baseball Commissioner
Dear Mr. Manfred:
With Major League Baseball on hiatus due to the coronavirus, you have time to revisit the Houston Astros cheating scandal.
The Houston organization – and the team’s players in particular – are getting off easy when it comes to punishment for a long-standing cheating scheme that hurt opposing teams and players, and left a stain on the game. Worst of all, the Astros won the World Series – baseball’s ultimate event – in an unethical, unsportsmanlike and illegal manner.
Yes, you suspended Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for a season. Those punishments are fair and well-deserved. The organization was also fined and lost a couple of draft picks. Fine.
However, the players who carried out the sign-stealing scheme received zero punishment!
Moreover, the Astros organization is still proudly displaying its World Series championship trophy from 2017 and promoting that ‘championship’ in its marketing efforts.
Players and fans are upset with the lack of severe consequences for the players involved, and for the organization.
The best player in baseball, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, is usually very mild-mannered and non-controversial. But he had this to say: “It’s sad for baseball. It’s tough. They cheated. I don’t agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing. It sucks, too, because guys’ careers have been affected. A lot of people lost jobs.”
Hall-of-Famer Hank Aaron said your punishments didn’t fit the crime. “I think whoever did that should be out of baseball for the rest of their lives,” said Aaron.
A poll conducted by Eagle Hill Consulting found that 90 per cent of Americans say that players on the team who broke the rules should be punished.
A Seton Hall poll found 49 per cent called your investigation a coverup rather than a serious effort to punish wrongdoing. That’s compared to only 14 per cent who said it was a serious punishment.
To pour salt in the wounds of players and fans, Astros owner Jim Crane said, “Our opinion is this didn’t impact the game. We had a good team. We won the World Series. We’ll leave it at that.”
We’ll leave it at that?
“What an amazing opinion,” tweeted sports reporter Ian Rapoport after seeing Crane’s quote. “This is like the people who say taking steroids to get bigger, faster and stronger don’t cause more HRs. If it doesn’t help, why are you cheating?”
Crane clearly doesn’t get the magnitude of what his team did. And continuing to allow him to flaunt the World Series trophy isn’t going to help him understand the seriousness of the offence.
There appears to be a problem when it comes to punishing the Astros players. Reports say you gave the players involved complete immunity in exchange for their stories about what happened. Why you gave them zero punishment for their testimony instead of reduced punishment is a question for another day.
In the name of justice, more needs to be done. Fans, players and the game deserve a stronger response to this blatant disregard of basic fair play and sportsmanship.
We propose the following:
- Vacate the Astros’ World Series title. In the official MLB record book, and all other MLB publications, the World Series champion for 2017 should be listed as “Vacated.” And the Astros should be instructed to eliminate any mention of winning the 2017 World Series in all organizational communications.
- Your office should pull back the 2017 World Series trophy from the Astros. It’s not deserved.
- The players on that 2017 team need to return their World Series rings. They weren’t earned fairly.
- Ban the Astros from the 2020 post-season. This will undoubtedly hurt the Astros at the gate, which might be the only way Crane understands the seriousness of what his team did. It will also send a powerful message to every team, players throughout the league and baseball fans everywhere. Cheating won’t be tolerated in Major League Baseball. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) gives post-season bans for serious violations; there’s no reason MLB can’t do the same thing.
- Ban the use of any technology by the Astros during games this season. This includes preventing Astros pitchers and hitters from viewing any previous at-bats from the current game or previous games.
Mr. Manfred, while your initial punishments for the Astros fell well short of what this cheating scheme calls for, there’s still time to do the right thing.
On behalf of players across Major League Baseball, and the millions of fans who love the game, here’s hoping you seriously consider the proposed punishments listed herein for the Astros.
Ralph Nader, founder League of Fans
Ken Reed, sports policy director, League of Fans