The Athletic: The Astros stole signs electronically in 2017 part of a much broader issue for Major League Baseball

Marciano490

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Is his wife’s name Melanie, or did the artist mess up at first and spell it Melany and that’s why she didn’t want everyone seeing it?
 

DanoooME

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Justin Turner the latest to chime in.

"Now anyone who goes forward and cheats to win a World Series," Turner said, "they can live with themselves knowing that, 'Oh, it's OK. ... We'll cheat in the World Series and bring the title back to L.A. Screw [manager] Dave Roberts and screw [general manager] Andrew [Friedman]. It's just those guys losing their jobs. I still get to be called a champion the rest of my life.' So the precedent was set by him yesterday in this case."
All this from an organization that covered up sexual and simple assaults. Yeah, they are certainly the moral standard we all need to live by.

How about cleaning up your own organization before criticizing others?
 

curly2

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He’s gotta let it go with the buzzers. I commend that his theories have become something players have to discuss but Chapman got beat on an awful pitch.
Both things can be true, by the way, simultaneously: Chapman threw an awful pitch and Altuve knew a slider was coming because of the alleged buzzer.
Chapman threw that same awful slider when a homer would have given the World Series to the Indians instead of the Cubs. The batter was Carlos Santana, who had 34 homers in the regular season, 2 in the ALCS and 1 in the World Series. Not knowing what was coming, he popped it up. John Smoltz said, "When you're expecting 100, even though it wasn't the best located slider, tough to adjust."

 

LogansDad

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So, this story even got Mike Trout to add some sprinkles to his vanilla, over at The Athletic.

“It’s sad for baseball,” Trout said. “Tough. They cheated. I don’t agree with the punishments, with the players not getting anything when it’s a player-driven thing. … Guys’ careers have been affected. A lot of people lost jobs.”
I'll be honest, at first I thought this was kind of a non-story, but it seems like every week something new comes to light that makes it worse and worse. I'm firmly on the side of believing this is worse than any of the guys who used steroids, now. I will be really curious how this affects, say, Altuve's Hall of Fame voting 15 or 20 years down the road. I'd bet it impacts Beltran's vote considerably.

One name I don't think I've seen mentioned in this thread (though I certainly may have missed it) is John Farrell, who got fired after the 2017 series against the Astros, largely because he wasn't able to get the Sox out of the Division Series two years in a row.
 

djbayko

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The Astros could very well start the season in a batting slump because of normal regression combined with poor clubhouse morale and whatever other reasons, and the baseball world will be exclaiming "See?!?!".
 

EnochRoot

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So, this story even got Mike Trout to add some sprinkles to his vanilla, over at The Athletic.



I'll be honest, at first I thought this was kind of a non-story, but it seems like every week something new comes to light that makes it worse and worse. I'm firmly on the side of believing this is worse than any of the guys who used steroids, now. I will be really curious how this affects, say, Altuve's Hall of Fame voting 15 or 20 years down the road. I'd bet it impacts Beltran's vote considerably.

One name I don't think I've seen mentioned in this thread (though I certainly may have missed it) is John Farrell, who got fired after the 2017 series against the Astros, largely because he wasn't able to get the Sox out of the Division Series two years in a row.
This is considerably worse than PED usage. For starters, PED usage had no effect on the integrity of the sport itself. It was an assault on the integrity of the data collected to describe the games played, and it was an abrogation of ethics, but it was not cheating the way the Astros designed, implemented and engaged.
 

Hoya81

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This is considerably worse than PED usage. For starters, PED usage had no effect on the integrity of the sport itself. It was an assault on the integrity of the data collected to describe the games played, and it was an abrogation of ethics, but it was not cheating the way the Astros designed, implemented and engaged.
If PED usage has no effect on the integrity of the game, then why are they banned?
 

InstaFace

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If PED usage has no effect on the integrity of the game, then why are they banned?
Right, he overstates the case, but he's not entirely wrong either in that there's still a pretty strong difference of degree.

- PEDs help you recover faster and get back on the field => a competitive advantage relative to your peers who might struggle with injuries, but not a team advantage in and of itself
- PEDs help you maintain strength over a long grueling season => a competitive advantage relative to your peers wearing down, but not a tactical advantage in-game
- PEDs help you (under some circumstances) hit the ball harder => done right, a nontrivial advantage over your opposing pitchers, except...
- PEDs help you (under some circumstances) increase velocity => done right, a nontrivial advantage over your opposing hitters...

If PED users were roughly evenly distributed through baseball - a big leap given players like Barry Bonds but point is, there's no particular skew or concentration of them - then the advantage would be minor and infrequent. Not zero, of course, which is why they do it. But let's not ignore the first two reasons, either, which were probably the reason (for example) Manny Ramirez turned to them.

Whereas, decoding signs in real-time and signaling to the hitter is basically playing The Show on easy mode. It's a massive in-game tactical advantage. And it's being done by an entire team, at the expense of their specific opponents, rather than lone cheaters distributed throughout the league.

PEDs are banned because they provide the advantages above while also presenting a serious long-term health risk to the user, and sports needs to prevent there being a cultural pressure of "you need to do this to keep up" when something like that's at risk. On the other hand, one team knowing what pitches the other team is throwing makes a total farce of the spirit of competition in the first place.

I can see an argument that it's "considerably worse than PED usage", and I can see an argument that it's not. But I do think there's a difference of type there in the actions.
 

CoffeeNerdness

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Ok, I see what you meant. I took the term PED to just mean steroids, which it doesn't. For something like DHEA, I'd imagine that was put on the list because of an overreaction to the "steroid era" leading to heavy handed bannings and/or they followed guidelines/precedents set by an organization like WADA.
 

soxhop411

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A few updates from the past day:
Braves’ Markakis unloads on Astros: ‘Every single guy over there needs a beating’

View: https://twitter.com/BarrettSallee/status/1229770986037354502


Two Athletic stories:
First: on how the MLBPA union would have made it nearly impossible to suspend any players even if a majority of non Astros players are pissed at the “cheaters
View: https://twitter.com/EvanDrellich/status/1229618648266006529

Even if Rob Manfred had never offered Astros players immunity, Major League Baseball had little chance of successfully disciplining them.

Despite widespread calls for league action, the commissioner cannot wake up one day and decide which behavior to punish and how. Not without a major fight that he would likely lose anyway. The players’ union guards against such action.

Any potential punishments to Astros players would have prompted grievances and wound up before an arbitrator. And in the words of an official with knowledge of these matters, MLB would have been “smoked.” Another person experienced in this area said that MLB’s case would have been “brutal” and the league would “look a fool.”

The reason? In labor relations, the concept of giving notice is hugely important. Management must clearly lay out how the workplace is to be run. That means providing both notice of the rules and notice of what type of punishment will follow if those rules are broken.

MLB had not worked out the right to punish anyone with the Major League Baseball Players Association, though that may change for the 2020 season.
Much more from Evan Drellich below:

second
Manfred regrets not acting sooner:
Rosenthal: Rob Manfred regrets not acting sooner on sign stealing – ‘I hate where we are’
Do I wish we would have thought through, ‘Gee, yeah, something bad could happen here?’ Of course I do. I hate where we are right now. I think that when we had a reasonable basis to come to the realization we had a problem, I think we were pretty damn quick to get on it.”

In baseball, though, things are rarely simple, and conflicting agendas sometimes distract from the most urgent matters. Thus, even as the MLBPA came to understand that electronic sign stealing was becoming more prevalent, it did not fully grasp the breadth of the problem.

According to several on the players’ side — including Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller, one of the top two player officers in the union — the MLBPA’s primary concern initially was not the effect of illegal sign-stealing on competition, but the impact on a contentious issue in labor negotiations: pace of play.

As baseball pushed for games to be quicker and shorter, the players cited how often play slowed down because of mound visits and other stoppages — delays resulting from the need for pitchers and catchers to protect and frequently change their signs.

Baseball adopted a rule capping mound visits in 2018, but the paranoia continued. A number of clubs now distribute cards for pitchers to wear inside their caps and catchers on their wristbands, helping those players keep their signs straight and change them quickly, if necessary.

The union first contacted MLB with its concerns about the increased use of technology by clubs in the middle of the ’15 season, a source said. Left-hander Matt Moore, then with the Rays, alerted the union to cameras he had not previously seen on the field while preparing to throw a bullpen session during his rehabilitation from an elbow injury.

The MLBPA, in turn, reached out to MLB, which responded to such questions then and in 2016 by saying it first needed to conduct due diligence, the source said. Union chief Tony Clark has sounded occasional public warnings about the impact of data and technology on the game. But not until Athletics right-hander Mike Fiers spoke out to The Athletic did anyone on the players’ side publicly suggest that illegal sign stealing was creating an uneven playing field.

One pitcher, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he and other pitchers raised such fears at union meetings after the ’16 season. When the same broad rules remained in effect for ’17, the pitcher said the lack of action by MLB and the MLBPA was, “frankly astonishing to me.”
 

Van Everyman

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Thanks for sharing that, @soxhop411. So basically, this is another situation where MLB and MLBA failed to stop a massive cheating scandal before it spiraled out of control.

Again, with no Article 46 (or provisions about "notice"), Manfred couldn't really do much more than he did here. And it's worth noting that just as Don Fehr fell on his face during steroids, Tony Clark crapped out here.

I'm not saying this to defend Manfred or suggest they include an Article 46 (which would never happen anyway) so much as to note that Manfred is taking pretty much 100% of the blame and that for better and for worse, he has pretty much done everything differently than Goodell. Granted, they are different sports, the union in baseball is infinitely more powerful than in football and there is a CBA to consider. But Goodell has never hesitated to go after the tough guy PR boost of suspending the shit out of anyone, even if they get overturned by an arbitrator. I guess you can do that when you are printing money, rather than hemorrhaging it.
 

OurF'ingCity

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Honestly the comments from non-Astros players comes across as nothing but sour grapes to me. Are we really to believe that the Justin Turners, Cody Bellingers, and Nick Markakises of the world wouldn’t have taken advantage of the system if they were on the Astros and instead would have blown the whistle to the press and/or MLB?

I find that highly unlikely, which makes their complaints read more like “I’m pissed the Astros thought to do this and my team didn’t” rather than actually caring about the integrity of the game.
 

NJ_Sox_Fan

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Honestly the comments from non-Astros players comes across as nothing but sour grapes to me. Are we really to believe that the Justin Turners, Cody Bellingers, and Nick Markakises of the world wouldn’t have taken advantage of the system if they were on the Astros and instead would have blown the whistle to the press and/or MLB?

I find that highly unlikely, which makes their complaints read more like “I’m pissed the Astros thought to do this and my team didn’t” rather than actually caring about the integrity of the game.
My other thought with regards to this is that they really need to be 100% certain nobody on their respective teams are cheating in any way, shape or form, or it will be a colossal blow up in their collective faces. Certainly what the Astros did is a problem, but some of these guys stating that the WS or MVP was stolen from them is just silly - especially the WS. Who knows how much it actually altered the playoff games, and if it did, who is to say NY, BOS, etc are in that WS vs LA and still beat them?
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Honestly the comments from non-Astros players comes across as nothing but sour grapes to me. Are we really to believe that the Justin Turners, Cody Bellingers, and Nick Markakises of the world wouldn’t have taken advantage of the system if they were on the Astros and instead would have blown the whistle to the press and/or MLB?

I find that highly unlikely, which makes their complaints read more like “I’m pissed the Astros thought to do this and my team didn’t” rather than actually caring about the integrity of the game.
Boog Sciambi posted a twitter thread yesterday that brought up the same point, asking whether any of these outraged players would have expressed outrage and spoken up if it had been happening in their clubhouse/dugout, and I couldn't have agreed more when I read it. It's getting pretty ridiculous at this point, and I find the calls for and threats of retaliation against the Astros to be more disturbing than the cheating itself.
 

jcd0805

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Boog Sciambi posted a twitter thread yesterday that brought up the same point, asking whether any of these outraged players would have expressed outrage and spoken up if it had been happening in their clubhouse/dugout, and I couldn't have agreed more when I read it. It's getting pretty ridiculous at this point, and I find the calls for and threats of retaliation against the Astros to be more disturbing than the cheating itself.
Seriously, "they deserve a beating"? There are crackpots out there that will 100% believe they are in the right to beat up one of these players due to that ridiculous comment. The players are feeding off the coverage at this point and upping their outrage with every interview, it's getting absurd.
 

joe dokes

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Is your position here that the technology to make a piece of plastic vibrate remotely doesn't exist or are you genuinely asking for someone to send you a link from amazon? You could probably build the device yourself in 5 minutes. Stick an apple watch to your chest and have someone else call it. Boom, vibration device. Stick one of those sex toy things that vibrate when someone activates it remotely...
Still in the flip phone era (so at least 10 years ago), there was a European ad where a woman was using her phone for just that, and IIRC, kept asking to be called back (something like that. someone else is going to have to look that up during business hours).
 

Wingack

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Honestly the comments from non-Astros players comes across as nothing but sour grapes to me. Are we really to believe that the Justin Turners, Cody Bellingers, and Nick Markakises of the world wouldn’t have taken advantage of the system if they were on the Astros and instead would have blown the whistle to the press and/or MLB?
I believe it is Markakii.
 

BaseballJones

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Seriously, "they deserve a beating"? There are crackpots out there that will 100% believe they are in the right to beat up one of these players due to that ridiculous comment. The players are feeding off the coverage at this point and upping their outrage with every interview, it's getting absurd.
Yeah it's crazy. Nobody should be getting "beat up" over this. But I sure do expect some fastballs to the ribs to some Astros players this year. The crazy thing is that they might get suspensions for doing that, which would be insane given that the guys actually cheating got...zero punishment whatsoever.
 

djbayko

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PEDs aren't cheating. You pay the consequences in hair loss, so that levels the playing field.

The whining is starting to get ridiculous. The Astros cheated. Alright, we get it. But nobody knows how things would have played out if they hadn't been stealing signs, so everyone needs to take it down a notch and move the fuck on.
 

Leskanic's Thread

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it's about 3 minutes after touching home plate. there was some edited cuts posted after the scandal broke where it looks like he runs straight in after celebrating. but here is the footage. There is a live shot from the stands that is out there too.
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XC34yua88z0
Amazing that that Altuve AB opens with Buck declaring "And he loooooves hitting here at home in Houston."

Watching that again, beyond any analysis of the shirt and the tattoo and the timing...it just reminds me how much I enjoyed Altuve. He was one of my favorite non-Sox players of the last few years, even while Houston was standing as a major obstacle to Boston advancing in the playoffs. And now...well, now, not so much.

Still nice to see Chapman's grimace-smile tho.

Stick to sports
Reader, I laughed.
 

jon abbey

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As a longtime Chapman observer, he did not have his A or even his B stuff in that inning, maybe he was not fully warmed up because of the unexpected DJ HR. The slider on a tee was his 19th pitch of the inning and his fastball had been sitting 97-98 with only 2 100+, looking for a slider there is much easier to time (and more likely to be thrown) than when he is sitting 102.
 

edoug

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Chapman had lost control of his fastball and threw some decent sliders.
 

CoffeeNerdness

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It honestly looks like the pitch previous was an even better pitch to hit. Smoltz and Buck thought it was a "great pitch!' but it's an inner half, belt high, 85 mph slider that just sits there. It's almost as if Altuve was looking fastball and was caught off guard by the slider. Hmmmm.
 

reggiecleveland

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His massive muscle gain in the middle of his career?
I stood by 16 year old Lebron. I was 6'4 230, doing power lifting etc. I felt like a scrawny child. He has one of the biggest strongest frames anywhere ever. His length and smooth movements hide how big he really is. Wilt was the same, looks thin in pics, but just massive.
 

nvalvo

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Here’s a question: should the MLBPA impose penalties on Astros players?

I know that they don’t have that power as such. But given the situation, should they assert it? You could say something like, the Commisioner disciplines owners and FOs, we discipline players (in extraordinary circumstances not already covered by the CBA).

It would be an interesting power play against the owners, certainly.
 

natpastime162

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I've avoided posting on this topic because I a) don't want to "blame the victim" with snide comments, b) considering the available tools, am not shocked by the cheating and c) put the blame directly on MLB. We have 100 years of history to suggest players (and teams) will cheat.

There is an article on Hardball Times talking about an American Studies Course at Carlton College that can be summarized as, "A historical analysis of ethics and ethical decision-making in Major League Baseball." As part of the course, students were given a list of 133 specific ethical incidents throughout baseball history. Obviously, not all of the incidents are related to cheating, nor were all the "cheating" incidents against the rules at the time. Still, I think it helps explain how the reaction to the Stros' cheating seems bizarre to people like me. John McGraw is in the Hall of Fame. So are Don Sutton and Gaylord Perry. Roger Bossard continues the Bossard family legacy as the current head groundskeeper of the Chicago White Sox. The 1951 Giants and one of the most famous calls in baseball history!

None of this absolves the Astros. I'm just not surprised by it. I am surprised that Manfred and MLB were caught flatfooted. MLB hired Manfred full-time in 1998. He spent the next decade-plus neck-deep in the steroid era. He negotiated MLB's first drug testing agreement with MLBPA in 2002 and led MLB's Biogenesis investigation in 2013. It's not even the lack of foresight that bothers me, it's the gullibility. When MLB puts in/allows the replay booth and says, "you can't use this for x," they know it can be used for x.
 

DanoooME

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It'll be interesting to see if some team dares the umpires to throw the entire pitching staff out of a spring training game because the entire staff keeps throwing at Astros batters. It wouldn't surprise me to see that if the anger is as genuine as it seems. I'm not saying they should do it, in fact, it would be incredibly stupid and dangerous (because you know one would get away and hit someone in the head), but it's certainly in the realm of possibility given some of the angry takes.
 

natpastime162

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It'll be interesting to see if some team dares the umpires to throw the entire pitching staff out of a spring training game because the entire staff keeps throwing at Astros batters. It wouldn't surprise me to see that if the anger is as genuine as it seems. I'm not saying they should do it, in fact, it would be incredibly stupid and dangerous (because you know one would get away and hit someone in the head), but it's certainly in the realm of possibility given some of the angry takes.
It's be hard to envision an HBP with obvious McSorley-esque intent, but has anyone ever been charged with assault for hitting a batter? A cursory google search didn't return anything useful. The most obvious example I can recall is Wichita State's Ben Christensen drilling Evansville University's Anthony Molina in the head during warm-ups. The county DA (in Kansas) declined to file charges.
 
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Average Game James

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Unless Astros players are getting hit in very obvious and egregious ways (e.g. Altuve getting smoked with the first pitch he sees multiple games, multiple batters hit in a row), MLB is in a bit of a tough spot policing this. I mean, what can they do? Start every game out with the opposing staff under a warning? It may not be knowing what king of pitch is coming, but I’m guessing Houston could hit pretty well if they knew they couldn’t be pitched aggressively inside all season...The optics of suspending a pitcher for this when the Astros players get off with nothing would also double down on the terrible look for the league.

Separately, I don’t know that a ton of hitters need to get plunked. This season will already be pretty uncomfortable every time they leave home. Every crowd will be hostile (unless they’re in TB where there aren’t crowds). The press will be relentless. My guess is regardless of play the Astros get one token all-star selection (players definitely aren’t voting for them and no fans outside Houston), and no major award consideration. It’s not going to be a fun year for the team.
 

edoug

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Unless Astros players are getting hit in very obvious and egregious ways (e.g. Altuve getting smoked with the first pitch he sees multiple games, multiple batters hit in a row), MLB is in a bit of a tough spot policing this. I mean, what can they do? Start every game out with the opposing staff under a warning? It may not be knowing what king of pitch is coming, but I’m guessing Houston could hit pretty well if they knew they couldn’t be pitched aggressively inside all season...The optics of suspending a pitcher for this when the Astros players get off with nothing would also double down on the terrible look for the league.

Separately, I don’t know that a ton of hitters need to get plunked. This season will already be pretty uncomfortable every time they leave home. Every crowd will be hostile (unless they’re in TB where there aren’t crowds). The press will be relentless. My guess is regardless of play the Astros get one token all-star selection (players definitely aren’t voting for them and no fans outside Houston), and no major award consideration. It’s not going to be a fun year for the team.
Good points all. No real reason to inflict physical pain or injury.
 

BaseballJones

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Unless Astros players are getting hit in very obvious and egregious ways (e.g. Altuve getting smoked with the first pitch he sees multiple games, multiple batters hit in a row), MLB is in a bit of a tough spot policing this. I mean, what can they do? Start every game out with the opposing staff under a warning? It may not be knowing what king of pitch is coming, but I’m guessing Houston could hit pretty well if they knew they couldn’t be pitched aggressively inside all season...The optics of suspending a pitcher for this when the Astros players get off with nothing would also double down on the terrible look for the league.

Separately, I don’t know that a ton of hitters need to get plunked. This season will already be pretty uncomfortable every time they leave home. Every crowd will be hostile (unless they’re in TB where there aren’t crowds). The press will be relentless. My guess is regardless of play the Astros get one token all-star selection (players definitely aren’t voting for them and no fans outside Houston), and no major award consideration. It’s not going to be a fun year for the team.
They're probably good enough to still be a legit WS contender though, so it could be a giant FU season for them. Which would be fun. (for them)
 

notmannysfault

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A melodramatic but interesting response

I can't say this means much, but if I were a member of the 'Stros organization, this would hit me right in the soul.

Then I would go home to my Lamborghini(s), lavish vacations, personal chef etc...but for a couple minutes, it would occur to me that perhaps my fortunate life circumstances actually put me under some level of scrutiny. Then add the concepts of "baseball" and "children" and you may just have something that creates a slight attitude of contrition.

I mean, there are some of us (or our children) who practiced just as hard as these guys did until people had to tell us..."forget it, just stop...you're wasting everyone's time." I, for one, didn't realize that my desire to play ball was entirely foolish and doomed to failure until I was around 16. Everyone else knew when I was 12. By 19, I was done playing competitively.

All of the above said, the contrition would probably last only until they enjoyed their next thousand dollar round of golf+drinks+meal...so I would assume that would be an average of less than one day for most during the off-season?
 

Average Game James

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They're probably good enough to still be a legit WS contender though, so it could be a giant FU season for them. Which would be fun. (for them)
True, though I think that could be harder through the grind of a 162 game season than it is in other sports where you get more down time. On their FU tours, the Pats really only had to deal with a hostile crowd/press 8 times... it probably wears on you when you up that to 80.

My first hope is Houston loses 90+ games with career worst years from all their star players. But if that doesn’t happen, I’d rather enjoy listening to the Astros players bitch if Altuve hits .350/.425/.550 and doesn’t go to the AS game or Bregman puts up a 9-10 WAR season on a 100+ win team and doesn’t finish top 5 in the MVP voting.
 

YTF

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In the "think of the children" department... a Pennsylvania district has dropped the Astros from its team names

I've no problems with dropping the name, but for completely different reasons. Kids don't need to be heckled by A-hole LL parents because of the name on the jersey and you know that's gonna happen.
 

singaporesoxfan

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It'll be interesting to see if some team dares the umpires to throw the entire pitching staff out of a spring training game because the entire staff keeps throwing at Astros batters. It wouldn't surprise me to see that if the anger is as genuine as it seems. I'm not saying they should do it, in fact, it would be incredibly stupid and dangerous (because you know one would get away and hit someone in the head), but it's certainly in the realm of possibility given some of the angry takes.
The depth of anger against the cheating definitely seems genuine. And it seems to have extended beyond the Dodgers and those who were most affected by the cheating, to the general baseball player community. I mean, you have Mike Trout, as milquetoast as it gets, making statements about it. (By Trout standards, “They cheated. I don’t agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing." is as harsh as it gets)

So I disagree with people saying that the players are getting ridiculous - the outrage is because the Astros have not only won, they've been not been punished, they've been far from contrite, and now look like they are being protected by Manfred, and for me that's totally understandable. It's like a bully beats you up for months, you finally threaten to fight back, and then you're forced to shake hands, with no recognition of the vast disparity in what led up to the moment. You can't just say "bury your feelings" and hope the anger goes away.

I know Manfred's legal hands are constrained in terms of punishment, but maybe this is where Manfred's default to his legal training is hurting him in defusing the situation. Manfred is dealing with this as a lawyer handling the "crime" that's been committed, but as a commissioner and leader the issue isn't just handling the crime, it's addressing what the players are feeling. He seems all focused on the question of what he's allowed to do through punishment or non-punishment, and punishment is one but not the only way to address and recognize the deep anger that players are feeling. On his podcast, Buster Olney suggested a motion of censure. I don't know if that would work, but at least it's thinking outside the framework of suspensions / vacating titles etc. Maybe something like the equivalent of the truth and reconciliation commission (though obviously on an issue of more minor import)?
 
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387
Separately, I don’t know that a ton of hitters need to get plunked.
A graph of Percentage of Hit by Pitches for MLB from 1901 through 2019. As can be seen, there has been a sharp up-rise in recent years. My guess is that the high rates seen in the early 20th century could be the result of players still becoming accustimed to the rules changes that took place a few years earlier. data from Major League Baseball Batting Year-By-Year Averages -- bb-ref.com