The revelation that the Houston Astros stole signs via a video feed of home plate during the 2017 season, helping them win 101 regular season games and a World Series title, has roiled baseball fandom. Fans combed through old game footage to find support for the allegations that Houston players banged on a trash can to signal hitters when a breaking pitch was about to be delivered. Social media posts of old game footage went viral. Many fans now believe the sanctions handed down by Commissioner Rob Manfred did not go far enough, since no players were punished. Others have called for the Astros’ World Series championship to be rescinded.
While fans have been debating whether Manfred did enough to punish the Astros, baseball’s insiders have been admonishing former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers for blowing the whistle and violating the clubhouse code of silence. ESPN analyst and New York Mets advisor Jessica Mendoza said going public with the allegations “didn’t sit well” with her. Legendary former pitcher and TV analyst Pedro Martínez opined that Fiers was a “bad teammate” for waiting to disclose the cheating scheme until he had joined another organization.
Others, like former Houston starter Dallas Keuchel, have downplayed the scope of the scandal. Keuchel, who recently signed a three-year contract with the Chicago White Sox, was the first member of the 2017 Astros to apologize, making a statement at the Sox Fan Fest on Friday.
However, the so-called apology was self-proclaimed and self-serving. According to Keuchel, the reaction has been overblown and “[w]hen the stuff was going on, it was never intended to be what it’s made to be right now.” He also minimized the extent of the cheating by saying it was “[not] like every game we had everything going on.” If you watch the video below which captures part of Keuchel’s statement, you can also hear him use clichés like “it is what it is” and “we’ve gotta move past it.”
At the White Sox version of FanFest Dallas Keuchel becomes the first former member of the #Astros to apologize for the sign-stealing scandal: "First & foremost I think apologies should be in order, if not everybody on the team..I personally am sorry for what's come about." pic.twitter.com/XXRRykHwB7
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) January 24, 2020
These reactions from baseball media personalities and a player close to the scandal show that baseball was unprepared for the reaction and the insiders are out of touch with fans’ concerns. They are choosing to focus on tangential issues, while fans are upset that the World Series, the sacrosanct event of the MLB season, has been tainted.
This is a major problem. MLB already has an aging fanbase and plummeting attendance figures. A failure to issue significant penalties and curb electronic cheating could do irreparable damage to the sport. If viewers lose confidence that MLB is fair and quit following the league, MLB is unlikely to be able to replace them. Baseball insiders need to take notice that their livelihood will be at risk without fans’ eyeballs and dollars and pressure MLB to put an end to electronic cheating.
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