After two prior seasons of cheating through sign stealing, the media has been in an uproar over the allegations against the Houston Astros. The way the MLB and the Houston Astros’ public relations team dealt with these allegations is one of the major causes for this uproar that has players in the league vocalizing their opinions and fans across the country going ballistic.When the sign-stealing allegations were proven to be correct, and members of the organization admitted to the acts, the MLB responded by suspending the Houston Astros manager and general manager for the entire 2020 season, taking away the team’s first and second-round draft picks for the next two years, while also fining the team $5 million. The rest of the league is still upset that none of the players involved were really punished and that they got off essentially unscathed, despite the fact that they were aware of what they were doing and that the team went all the way to win the World Series as a result.
Sign-stealing in baseball means having an eye on the catcher to see what he’s telling the pitcher to throw, then quickly relaying that information to the batter before the pitch is thrown. The Astros had staff members stand in the tunnel to the locker room, with access to cameras that were directed at home plate to see the catcher’s call and beat on the wall a certain number of times to indicate to the batter what pitch was about to be thrown.
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve went toe-to-toe with Yankees, then-rookie sensation, right fielder Aaron Judge for the 2017 American League MVP race, and Altuve just narrowly beat out Judge for the award. With the surfacing of the cheating scandal, there are murmurs throughout the league and between fans that Altuve should be stripped of that title and it should be given to Judge. Other fans think that Houston should be completely stripped of its 2017 title. Commissioner Rob Manfred made a statement to the media stating that the players’ punishment will be the public shame they will receive for years to come from fans around the country, in addition to the shunning they’ll receive from the rest of the league.
As for the Houston Astros, that franchise should fire their entire public relations team for how poorly they have handled this situation. The Astros initially responded by firing their manager and general manager, an in the moment fix for the problems at hand, but then proceeded to issue a public apology on behalf of the organization.
Many saw the lack of sincerity and remorse from the players as disrespectful to the rest of the league, especially the Los Angeles Dodgers who fell to them in the World Series in 2017. The Dodgers, who cruised through the National League that season, could’ve easily cleaned house without the Astros relying on their sign-stealing crutch, l and were essentially robbed of a World Series championship as a result of this cheating scandal.
Astros owner Jim Crane claimed in a statement that the organization knowingly cheated, but that wasn’t what helped them win. Dodgers ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw, an annual contender for the Cy Young, started on the mound for game seven of the 2017 World Series against the Astros, threw a combination of 51 sliders and curveballs through his time, and not a single Astro missed on one of those 51 that they swung at. That may be the most staggering statistic in the course of the entire scandal, as staff members were relaying all of Kershaw’s pitches back to the batters, allowing them to track down his ridiculous array of pitches.
It doesn’t take a baseball aficionado to tell you that those pitches are a lot easier to hit when you know they’re coming, leading to more hits for already one of the best offensive teams in baseball.
Issues with the Astros public relations have continued into spring training, where fans across the country have expressed criticism, yelling at players or holding signs bashing the team for their cheating. One of the most creative signs read “Houston Asterisk,” invalidating the World Series victory. And what was the Astros public relations response? They had facility workers and security go take signs from fans — proving themselves to be unchanged from their sign-stealing ways.
This level of dishonesty and immaturity throughout the entire scandal and its aftermath has been fraudulent and badly represents the rest of the MLB. Manfred has also received a lot of backlash for the level of punishment he gave to the franchise, with certain groups of fans calling for him to vacate the position.
It is going to be a long season for the Astros, who started off spring training with pitches hitting seven of their batters in five games, and crowds of fans booing the team. If the Astros can make it to the playoffs, which isn’t a question of talent as much as it is mental toughness, it would give their 2017 championship some much-needed validation. If they don’t make it to the postseason, it would stain their credibility for that title and cement them as the most hated team in baseball, a title the New York Yankees are glad to hand off after a lengthy tenure.