The Houston Astros won the 2017 baseball championship, then lost to Boston in the 2018 ALCS and to Washington in the 2018 World Series. They won 311 games over the last three years. In other words, they were arguably the best team in baseball.
So why are we talking baseball in January? You can blame the Astros for that.
Yesterday, we got the news that MLB had suspended GM Jeff Luhnow and field manager AJ Hinch over “stealing signs” — that is, informing the batter what signals the opposing catcher is sending to the pitcher.
Yes, I said stealing signs during the game, something that has happened since the first runner stood at second base and saw the catcher tell the pitcher what to throw.
In other words, stealing signs is a baseball art. In fact, do you remember George Will on the Ken Burns documentary praising Willie Mays for stealing signs every time he stood on second base?
So what did the Astros do? They didn’t steal signs the traditional way. They cheated by using technology rather than the naked eye as Willie Mays did.
Perhaps the most damaging information to come from Major League Baseball’s report is that its investigation found the Astros used their replay room and video monitor improperly “throughout the postseason” in 2017, when Houston won the World Series. The report officially taints Astros’ title.
Like the report said, no one knows for sure whether wins or titles were impacted. After all, you can warn the batter that a curve is coming, but he still has to hit it!
Many of us fell in love with the Astros down 1-45 because they built a team the old-fashioned way. They drafted well and created a first-class farm system responsible for all of the young players wearing the uniform.
Nevertheless, the 2017 title will be tainted and Yankee fans have cause to say that the 2017 and 2019 AL championships may have been “stolen.”
A bad day for baseball, although the commissioner was correct in the harsh punishments.