Astros’ Punishment Won’t Mollify Dodgers’ Fans

By Brandon HENSLEY

Major League Baseball came down on the Houston Astros on Monday for its involvement stealing opposing teams’ signs via video technology in 2017 and 2018. Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a nine-page report on his findings, which led him this week to suspend Astros manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for one season, without pay. The team is also stripped of its first-and second-round draft picks in both 2020 and 2021 and team owner Jim Crane was fined $5 million, the most Manfred was allowed to take from an owner.

Crane fired both Hinch and Luhnow almost immediately after the news broke. Crane wasn’t implicated in the report, his monetary fine is nothing, and now he gets to wash his hands of two men who knew (although Luhnow has denied being aware of the scheme) what their players were doing, but did nothing stop it. (Hinch admitted to passive aggressively damaging the monitor his team used to acquire signs on two occasions, but never told his players or coaches to outright stop the practice.)

Crane said in a press conference Monday that this does not sully his 2017 World Series title. Some Astros fans will no doubt take their championship and embrace the scarlet letter “C” that the baseball world has branded upon them. The nickname “Houston Asterisks,” which has been meming its way across the internet since November, is a moniker all Houston fans will have to endure for years.

The real stinger locally is what Manfred concluded in his report: the Astros kept some sort of sign-stealing system in place for the 2017 playoffs. Of course, the team the Astros beat in the World Series that year was the Dodgers, and no game is more infamous that year than Game 5, when Clayton Kershaw, who had dominated the Astros in Game 1 at Dodger Stadium, blew leads of 4-0 and 7-4 in Houston, a game LA lost 13-12. Was Kershaw a victim of cheating in that game? That night would have entirely changed his legacy and playoff reputation had he won.

The other domino yet to fall is the fate of Alex Cora, who was a bench coach with Houston in 2017 and who was determined to have initiated the video system. In 2018, he managed the Red Sox to a World Series title, also against the Dodgers. Earlier this month, it was reported the Red Sox that season also stole signs using video, albeit in a different way than Houston. On Tuesday, Boston fired Cora, taking a page from Crane’s playbook, but the baseball world is still awaiting what punishment MLB will mete out to him.

In 2004, as a player for the Dodgers, Cora had an epic at-bat against Cubs pitcher Matt Clement, fouling off pitch after pitch. On the 18th pitch, Cora, relatively small in stature, blasted a home run to right field, thrilling the Dodger Stadium crowd. But the next time he speaks with Manfred, he won’t get another opportunity to swing. The commissioner will most likely fire a well-placed fastball that could end Cora’s career.