In 2017, the Houston Astros Major League Baseball (MLB) team won the World Series. It was the first time in franchise history and all of Houston came out to celebrate. Yet a shadow was cast on the Astros’ win recently. Multiple anonymous sources allege that the team used video cameras that live-streamed the catcher’s signs and then warned their hitters of incoming slow pitches by banging on trash cans. Recently, Mike Fiers, a pitcher who was on the Astros’ bench during their 2017 postseason success, has confirmed the allegations of cheating. Meanwhile, the Astros deny any wrongdoing.
While the allegations are primarily related to the 2017 win, the Astros have been rumored to be engaging in this form of cheating for years. It’s very possible that even more teams have engaged in cheating of a similar magnitude, given how long it took for players to break the “code of silence.” That is, it took players two years to disclose blatant cheating in a World Series spree, and most of these reports came from possibly disgruntled former players. Even with the greatest incentive to expose the Astros, players waited a long time.
To say that cheating has never been a part of the game throughout the history of baseball would be woefully naive. From the start of the game, there were spitballs and sign stealing. One example that was utilized often was the “shot heard around the world,” which was a late-game home run hit by the New York Giants to win them the pennant, in which the hitter was relayed a pitch that was coming from a telescope perched in the outfield.
However, the ‘90s and early 2000s ushered in a new era of cheating: the doping era. Top hitters regularly broke home run records using performance-enhancing drugs, namely steroids. Despite obvious signs, such as unprecedented numbers of home runs, doping was allowed to be an open secret by MLB until 2003, when they finally implemented mandatory drug testing.
MLB’s capacity and willingness to enforce rules has always been in question and will continue to be in question throughout the entire technological sign stealing scandal.
This latest scandal also calls into question the example that MLB, and professional sports in general, set for younger athletes, including at the high school level.
With more emphasis than ever placed on acceptance to college, athletes at a high school level compete for scholarships and college application boosts. Seeing professional athletes ditch integrity and face little to no repercussions may embolden high school athletes, who have even less oversight than their major league counterparts, to try the same.
Sports organizations across the country from the MLB all the way down to high school athletic departments need to show players that cheating to get ahead is never acceptable, no matter who you are.