The investigation is complete. The punishments have been itemized. The fans remain outraged.
Major League Baseball completed its investigation into allegations of illegal sign stealing by the 2017 Houston Astros. A statement by commissioner Rob Manfred summarized the investigative findings and outlined the punishments for those found guilty. Fans, writers, and players have all expressed some form of surprise at MLB’s “light” sentencing.
Despite this being among the harshest penalties MLB has ever issued, I am equally aghast at the weakness from the commissioner’s office. For context, here is what MLB determined as appropriate punishment:
- The Astros are fined $5 Million
- The Astros are stripped of their first and second round draft picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts
- Jeff Luhnow (former Astros General Manager) is suspended from baseball for the 2020 season, with remedial training in both management and leadership
- AJ Hinch (former Astros Field Manager) is suspended from baseball for the 2020 season
- Alex Cora (identified as the “mastermind” of the cheating method) is still under investigation for the 2018 cheating allegations in his role as Field Manager of the Boston Red Sox
The report makes it very clear that the players were heavily involved in the scheme, obviously. They were the one’s executing the illegal activity on a daily basis. Yet, there are conspicuously no consequences issued to the players; particularly Carlos Beltran, the only player identified in MLB’s investigative summary by name, and ostensibly a driving force behind the cheating.
I’ve been asked many times about my opinion. I’ve been asked how I would punish those involved if the decision were mine.
After much deliberation, with the current body of evidence available and keeping in mind previous MLB punishments, here is what I would have done.
1. Fine the Astros the maximum allowable $5M.
2. The Astros are ineligible to participate in the 2020 draft. Additionally, they are stripped of the first 3 rounds of draft picks in the 2021 draft.
3. Jeff Lunhow is suspended for 3 full seasons, to include any off-season proceedings, travel, consultation, Minor League affiliations, etc. New MLB bylaws include this as the new minimum standard penalization for a GM implicated in cheating.
4. AJ Hinch suspended from baseball for 5 seasons. This includes any off-season proceedings, travel, consultation, Minor League affiliations, etc. Still eligible for whatever Hall of Fame consideration may come his way, etc.
5. Alex Cora is banned from baseball for life.
6. Carlos Beltran is banned from baseball for life.
7. Any player connected to both the 2017 Astros and either the 2018 Astros or the 2018 Red Sox is suspended from baseball for 5 full seasons. Any Hall of Fame considerations are retained, though I would encourage BBWA to long remember in their performance considerations that the offensive impact of these players was heavily tainted and cannot be fully authenticated.
8. Finalize the investigation into the 2018 Red Sox and level punishment commensurate with those listed above for all parties found equally or more culpable.
9. Ensure full compliance with these bullets, tender my resignation, nominate Joe Torre as my replacement and call the best co-author/ghost-writer I can find to begin work on the book.
My decisions are based chiefly on two primary concerns.
First, MLB must place the integrity of the game as its highest priority. The investigative results clearly show systemic cheating and definitive actions which violated the integrity of baseball. I believe the commissioner’s office is obligated to both punish those involved and to deter future cheating of any kind.
Second, MLB should begin placing their fans higher on their priority list. It is entrusted with preserving the game we love and without the fans, there is no professional baseball. Punishing those responsible for these egregious misdeeds, at every level, would restore the fan’s faith in those stewards of the game; and the game itself, by extension.
I chose to issue a five-year suspension for players because it’s the nearest thing to a lifetime suspension for many of them. Their careers won’t survive a five-year distance from the game. They will likely never be considered for induction to the Hall of Fame minus such significant service time. Those who could return to the game after such a break would do so at herculean effort and I believe in the possibility of redemption. Add that to the social backlash of hiring a convicted cheater and many of them would enjoy a lifetime ban, despite not being labeled as such.
We also have to consider that, based on the limited investigative details we’ve been given, we cannot further penalize any player, besides Beltran. Also, it’s impractical to call for lifetime bans for each player on the 40-man roster.
Obviously, there are many considerations to be taken into account. The MLB Player’s Association would likely work to defend their members. Not to mention the fact that MLB and the Player’s Association are due to renegotiate the Collective Bargaining Agreement after the 2020 season. However, the commissioner is the only one who could wield both authority and motivation sufficient to punish the players responsible. Such punishment would never come from the player’s union.
What do you think of my list? What would you change? What would you like to see happen to those responsible for undermining the integrity of this beautiful game?