The big news of the week came in the form of Major League Baseball dropping the hammer on the Houston Astros for their whole sign-stealing saga…
- General manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were suspended for one year (and subsequently fired).
- The organization has to forfeit its first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.
- The organization was issued a fine of $5 million, the maximum allowed under the MLB Constitution.
- In the wake of all of this, Alex Cora, who was Houston’s bench coach in 2017 and a ringleader for the whole thing, was fired by the Red Sox.
- There’s no word yet on whether or not the Mets will fire the newly-hired Carlos Beltran, who was a player at the time, but apparently played a key role.
So, to be honest, calling that a dropping of the hammer is a bit hyperbolic. It’s really just a slap on the wrist. At the end of the day, the Astros still have their World Series. The draft picks really don’t matter because that banner is still going to fly and the fine is inconsequential in the gazillion-dollar world of professional baseball. The organization probably made that much money in World Series merchandise the night Houston won it all back in 2017.
The only ones this punishment is really harsh on are the two staffers involved, Luhnow and Hinch. From the perspective of owner Jim Crane, he gets away pretty much Scott free as those two were effectively his fall men.
“[Astros owner Jim] Crane won,” a team president told Jeff Passan. “The entire thing was programmed to protect the future of the franchise. He got his championship. He keeps his team. His fine is nothing. The sport lost, but Crane won.”
“It will scare employees of MLB teams from cheating, at least for a while,” another executive told Passan. “And the man who owns the team gets to enjoy his ring. He gets off lightly and can start with a clean slate.”
But still, it’s easy to sit back and criticize Major League Baseball for this punishment, but it’s incredibly difficult to say how they should have handled it otherwise. Should they have taken away Houston’s World Series from the records? We see this kind of thing happen in NCAA sports, but does it really mean anything? Would that heal the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers fans’ and players’ wounds for losing to the Astros along the way? Would anybody actually view as the 2017 Astros as anything other than World Series Champs?
I mean, what are you going to do, show up to Minute Maid Park and rip the banner down? Show up to each player’s house and wrestle their ring away from them? It happened. There’s no way around it. And it’s ugly.
In my mind, this is much, much worse than the steroid scandal. Like, when a chunk of guys were on ‘roids, it gave them an unfair advantage over other players, but at least it was fun, right? Watching Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire go neck-and-neck hitting everything out of the park was wild. Seeing Barry Bonds hit 76 bombs was madness. But this? No, watching Clayton Kershaw put up great performances at home and get randomly shelled on the road out of the blue in the World Series isn’t fun and exciting.
It further cements our powerless nature as fans. We invest so much time and energy and emotion into this goddamn sport with absolutely zero agency over the outcome but one thing that keeps us coming back is the advent of hope. Baseball might not be totally fair, because, like life, it isn’t a meritocracy, but there exists a standard that ensures teams are treated equally on the field. There are rules that allow the billion-dollar Yankees to exist in the same realm as the ten-dollar Florida Marlins.
But when you find out that there’s a team doing this it’s hard to have that hope. It’s hard to accept that the Dodgers put together this outrageously good team with a combination of an unlimited budget and good drafting and developing and still couldn’t get over the hump because some other team figured out a behind-the-back way to exist outside of the parameters created to ensure a level playing field on the diamond.
It’s also wildly disturbing that the guy catching the most flack, it seems, is Mike Fiers, the “whistleblower” who stood up and exposed this whole load of bullshit. It was him who broke the code apparently, not the guys who needed to know which pitch Kershaw was going to throw in order to put their bat on the ball. If players are this outraged at Fiers being a snitch, what the hell else are they hiding?!
The whole thing is gross. It makes it kinda hard to be a fan.
If there actually was a parade, that would be amazing. That day, game 7, I will never forget my son who was 10 year old at that time, watching the game all the way through till the end while trying to hide his tears with his hat. https://t.co/jHkioogH4o
— Seiko Darvish (@seiko63) January 14, 2020
Anyways! Enough of that, on to other stuff, like Josh Donaldson finally getting his big, multi-year contract…
Josh Donaldson’s deal with the Minnesota Twins will pay him $84 million over the first four years and includes a $16 million club option with an $8 million buyout. In total, it’s $92 million guaranteed with a chase to go to $104 million if Donaldson hits escalators on the option.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 15, 2020
The deal at its base is worth $92 million over four years, but it can reach $104 million with the option for a fifth year. That’s $21 million annually for those first four years, which is a pretty nice deal for the Twins. As we know with Donaldson, at his age and with his crash-and-bang playing style, there’s certainly a risk here for Minnesota, but it’s a worthwhile one given how he bounced back last year in Atlanta. The Twins set an all-time record for home runs last season and they’ll be adding a guy who smashed 37 bombs to the mix last year, so we should expect to see that record broken again.
Speaking of Atlanta, it seems curious that Alex Anthopolous missed out here, given that the cash it required to keep his former MVP around wasn’t that big. Knowing what we know about AA, he’ll swoop out of nowhere and acquire Nolan Arenado or Kris Bryant or something.