We’ve all most likely witnessed Hollywood’s depiction of the fate of cheaters who ran afoul of old-style Texas justice.
Dealing from the bottom of the deck or swindling on a horse or cattle sale would have the cheater meeting his fate at the business end of a Colt 45 — and that was sometimes after being run down by a posse comprised of angry victims, a few townsfolk and a deputy sheriff.
Today the question is whether the Houston Astros, 2017 World Series champions, caught red-handed with a fifth ace up their collective sleeves, will be experiencing any new-style Texas justice.
And a sorry debacle it is.
The Astros, the toast of the Lone Star State following their championship, are now publicly exposed as having, with TV monitors installed beside their dugout, resorted to stealing the signs of opposing catchers and pitchers and in turn signalling Houston batters at the plate whether the next pitch might be a fastball, curve or slider.
This signalling was accomplished by banging on trash cans. Good grief. What a way for the Los Angeles Dodgers to be dispatched in Game 7 of the Series.
And who has come to actual grief for this putrid stew?
Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for a year by MLB and lost their Astros jobs. Hinch was in on the scheme. Luhnow may have been. Team owner Jim Crane fired them both, with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred stating there is no evidence Crane knew of the cheating.
The Astros were fined US$5 million and lost significant draft picks. The $5 million is loose change in the big league world of finance. The draft picks will hurt.
Hinch and Luhnow losing their gigs? Their careers in baseball are likely over, but the real significance of their departure? Minimal. Following the miserable on-field managing of the Astros during their loss of the 2019 World Series to the Washington Nationals, calls for the firing of Hinch were insistent.
Alex Cora, manager of the Boston Red Sox, has been jettisoned by the team. Cora, Houston’s bench coach at the time, is declared to have been a key cog in the development of the Astros’ cheating scheme.
Carlos Beltran, an Astros star reaching the end of his career in 2017 and about to begin his tenure as manager of the New York Mets, has also seen his job disappear in the wake of the scandal.
The players, though? The guys who jumped, hugged, cried and thanked their God during post-Series on-field interviews in ’17? Those guys are untouched by Major League Baseball.
World Series trophy, World Series bonus money, World Series rings, all still theirs. In 2020 Texas, the desperado keeps the chips. Heck, there’s even a banner commemorating the profligate cheating that continues to fly at Minute Maid Park in Houston. These players will show up at spring training in a few weeks and expect high-fives and adulation.
Clearly, this isn’t the first MLB cheating scandal. The Chicago Black Sox of a century ago are still talked about.
Major League Baseball is rife with dealing from the bottom of the deck. Think 70 home run seasons by steroid hulks like Mark McGwire.
Even in 2017, the Astros weren’t the only ones. The Red Sox of that same season were fingered and punished by the commissioner for making use of Apple watches to swipe signs.
Manfred and MLB are not without fault in all of this. What is high tech equipment doing in close proximity to a players’ dugout?
It’s the reaction by the Texas townsfolk that will be of greatest interest in April when the Astros trot onto the field for the first home game. The stands really should be empty as a voluntary message from paying customers. If that won’t happen (and it most likely won’t), then fans should turn their backs.
You and I suspect something else, don’t we? The Astros just happened to be the team that was caught.
Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.