However, take some excerpts from the report that Commissioner Rob Manfred issued on Monday, which he concluded by suspending Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for the 2020 season, were later fired, and saying he would wait to issue a punishment for former Astros banking coach Alex Cora, who was ruled out by the Red Sox before that discipline.
There is this: "Witnesses constantly describe this new scheme as driven by the player …"
And this: "Rather, the 2017 scheme in which players hit a trash can was, with the exception of Cora, driven and executed by the players."
And also this: "Most of the position players in the 2017 team received poster information from the hit scheme or participated in the scheme helping to decode posters or hit the trash can."
The players in question, the Manfred researchers interviewed 23 current and former Astros, are still employed. They can be heavier of conscience, who can say it? But they are not lighter wallet.
And although the ramifications for Luhnow, Hinch and Cora seem appropriate, it is difficult to escape the idea that Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa and George Springer, choosing names of a hat here, will appear next month in spring training, answer some questions uncomfortable about their participation in the undercover operation, but otherwise prepare for their unobstructed seasons.
Following a 2017 incident in which the Red Sox (before Cora) were caught using Apple watches to receive information on the bench in the video room, Manfred made the decision to hold general managers and field managers accountable for These guys. of transgressions He transmitted so much to the clubs. He reiterated that in Monday's report.
But in this case, you are using that decision as an out. The report calls disciplinary players "difficult and impractical."
"It is difficult because practically all the Astros players had some participation or knowledge of the scheme, and I am not in a position based on the research record to determine with any degree of certainty each player who should be responsible, or relative degree of guilt, "Manfred wrote." It is not practical given the large number of players involved and the fact that many of those players now play for other clubs. "
In a way, baseball says this: so many players were involved that it is too difficult to penalize them, so let's move on. That is, the real criminals got away with it.
Undoubtedly, there are practical concerns that are not among Manfred's reasons for not pursuing the player's punishment. First, baseball wanted to obtain from the players frank accounts of what the Astros did, and thus granted them immunity in cooperation for the testimony. That bell cannot be touched. Baseball players are incredibly loyal to each other and with the clubhouse code. Two months after Athletic exploded this scandal with the original Astros system account, it is remarkable, and revealing, that the only player who has lent his name to the deconstruction of the scam is Mike Fiers, the former Houston pitcher .
Perhaps the MLB investigators would not have received the full and detailed picture of what the players did if they had told the players that they could be punished. But there is another practical issue: the players union would not have accepted the punishment without a fight, or a series of fights, and it is possible that the resulting complaints would have taken months or more to resolve.
This is a delicate moment for relations between baseball and the union, and it might have seemed imprudent to add acrimony to an already belligerent situation as the two sides turn to what is expected to be controversial, and perhaps revolutionary, conversations. For a new collective bargaining agreement in the next two years.
Those are legitimate concerns. And yet, the result is that players are not being punished for a ploy driven by players. That is incongruous. It makes my head ache.
On Manfred's point about the "impractical" nature of punishing players because they are too numerous and some of them work for other employers: Come on. Is the problem so great that we cannot face it? Let's say a player took drugs to improve performance with a team, signed a contract with another in the offseason, and at some intermediate point did a test. He would be suspended for playing for his new team.
The only player mentioned in the report was Carlos Beltrán, who in 2017 was in his last season of a notable career, mainly as a designated hitter. It is easy to name Beltrán, and not, say, Bregman, Correa or Springer, because he is no longer a player. In fact, he is supposed to be heading to his first year as manager of the New York Mets.
Should Beltrán be disciplined by MLB? Well, how do you do that and don't punish the other players involved? Should I be fired by the Mets for transgressions committed with another team in another role? Remember, Cora was expelled by the Red Sox not only for what he did in Houston, but because Boston is under investigation for any mischief committed under Cora there. Beltran has not had the opportunity to incorporate such a system in Queens, and the severity of the sanctions against his former manager and general manager would seem to be a decent deterrent.
But there is a disturbing account of the level of flickering of how the Astros system elements propagate. Before the 2019 season, the New York Yankees hired Beltrán as a special assistant to General Manager Brian Cashman. Last June, Boston gave up 29 runs in a two-game series sweep at the hands of the Yankees in London. Later, Cora went to the sweep, and brought Beltran, unsolicited.
"I was joking with someone that his biggest acquisition of free agent was Carlos Beltrán," Cora said just before giving an exaggerated wink. “I know how it works. It's helping a lot … I'm not saying "devices", all those things. It's just something the game will dictate, and we'll shout at people and it's right there. I was watching all night and I saw it. "
At the moment, huh? But almost seven months later, there is a new context of what Cora was talking about. And yet, Cora has no job and Beltrán is about to start his.
This does not mean that Luhnow, Hinch and Cora were unfairly punished. But what baseball did here, allowing all kinds of technology in and around the bench during the games, but then not monitoring those areas even after the 2017 Red Sox incident, is similar to someone baking a batch of cookies with Chocolate chips, putting them in front of a 5-year-old boy, telling him not to eat them, and then leaving the room waiting for the cookies to remain intact during his absence. Except when you return to a decimated stack of cookies, you don't punish the 5-year-old boy for disobeying the order, you fire the baker.
The Astros' first full training in West Palm Beach, Florida, is February 17. It will be fascinating to hear how those position players answer questions about their participation, about their emotions, about the impact of deception in a season that ended with a World Series title.
However they handle them, the next day, those same Astros will show up for work. Your past may be contaminated. But his future is not inhibited, and that does not fit at all.