The Astros Sign Stealing Scandal and the Importance of Baseball to American Life


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Walt Whitman wrote:

I see great things in baseball. It’s our game — the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.

Baseball, can and should be that, but over the years as a culture and a country we have largely abandoned it in favor of more violent, and supposedly faster paced sports like football, which should be more honestly named slow paced, up-armored Rugby. True football is what we call soccer, a sport where every player, not just the kicker and punter can kick the ball, and where use of the hands to stop the ball by anyone except the goalkeeper is a penalty.

There is a lot going on in the world and in our country worth writing about today. I could write about the coming impeachment trials, the Democratic Party presidential race to the first primaries and caucuses, the crisis with Iran. They are all worthy of writing about. However, something troubles me more, because the issue goes to the heart of who we are as Americans, and what we have lost. That was revealed in the last few days when it was revealed that the Houston Astros and quite likely the Boston Red Sox have been implicated in a scandal that goes to the heart of the game, and to the heart of us as a people, and it is reflected in our culture, our politics, our religion, and the way we do life.

In the film Field of Dreams, James Earl Jones playing the character Terrance Mann, loosely based on the great author J. D. Salinger remarked:

The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.

But the latest scandal involving the upper management of the Astros and Red Sox has probably done more damage to the game than the 1918 Black Sox scandal, and the Steroid Era combined. This time upper management used technology to compromise themselves, their players, and the game itself. No member of the Astros and Red Sox World Series winning teams will escape question, including some of the best recent and young players to have played the game. The actions of A. J. Hinch, Alex Cora, Carlos Beltran and Jeff Luhnow, as well as others certainly to be implicated have harmed the game, and show the depravity of our win at all costs culture, embodied so well by President Donald Trump and our business elites. In sports this has best been seen in the NFL and both the NCAA Football and Basketball organizations, where it is all about winning, and money, with little regard for the players.

With the evidence released when the Mets parted ways with Carlos Beltran  after he was named in, but not suspended by MLB in their investigation of the Astros sign stealing scandal. At the time Beltran was a player, but video showed him along with other players watching the videos from the Center Field Camera as signals were being sent to batters. Another whistleblower revealed that at least some, if not all Astros batters had a buzzer embedded in their uniforms to alert them to the type of pitch coming.

I am sorry, call that whatever you wish cheating, and it is on a scale greater than the Black Sox Scandal of 1918 which resulted in the permanent suspension of eight players for life, including Shoeless Joe Jackson who played an amazing World Series but who was also illiterate, meaning that he probably did not understand the contract he signed to throw the Series. Likewise, the fact that the Pete Rose scandal, which involved his personal betting on games, did not significantly influence his teams record and got him banned from Baseball for life. Yes I will go even father, the PED/steroids scandal which ruined Hall of Fame careers for men who would have magpie it to the Hall of Fame with or without them pales in life significance to this scandal because all of the fact that it was so widespread in MLB. The reality is that all the great players stained with PEDs would have made the Hall of Fame without them, while hundred if not thousands of others, without their degree of talent never saw an increase in their performance tells me that talent, not drugs, was still key to the success of players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemons. You don’t have to agree with me, but those are facts. In this case it was upper management, the team Manager, coaches, and b players working together to cheat.

As much as I dislike the Evil Dodgers and Yankees, they did not deserve to be cheated out of League or World Series championships by teams that cheated using technology to skirt the long-standing taboos of Baseball that stealing signs is illegal, immoral, and ignoble, especially when the entire management and many players are in on, is simply dishonorable.

My judgement, and yes I used the word “judgement” not feeling, is that the players who participated in this scheme, even those who turned a blind eye to it need suspensions and reprimands, and maybe bans from playing or participating in the Major Leagues, or any minor league teams associated with a major league franchise. If that applies to Shoeless Joe and the rest of the Eight Men Out, to Pete Rose, and the men who would based on their records be in the Hall of Fame even without their use of PEDs then these men, who did this in the playoffs and World Series, need to be punished even more severely. MLB and the teams concerned need to ban the participants in this cheating scheme from baseball. They need to do what  the NFL and NCAA by and large refuse to do.

Baseball is essentially a peaceful and pastoral game, that when onne understands it makes a part of your heart. It is timeless in a time in an age where time is the enemy to be defeated. It is relatively slow paced, like reading books and classic literature, listening to well reasoned speeches and debates like the Lincoln Douglas debates, debates of substance, not sound bites. It is the fact that most Americans regardless of their political or religious beliefs revel in memes and sound bites, violence and speed, rather than reason, reflection, and respect for our institutions, laws, and conventions which have led us to today.

President Trump and his authoritarian Presidency didn’t just appear out of thin air. Our culture, changed. We came to value short term profits, social Darwinism, and amoral violence conducted by men in uniforms, some military, some law enforcement, and some in sports. They vicariously live the violence that we worship as the cornerstone of power.

Bill Veeck, who was the owner of a rotten White Sox franchise for years said:

Baseball is almost the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world. If you get three strikes, even the best lawyer in the world can’t get you off.

I hope that Major League Baseball makes a clean sweep. The National Football League hasn’t done it, but if baseball does it may again become America’s game, and it may bode well for our society as a whole, even more than religion or politics. I hate to say it, but I have to admit that I have come to like soccer as much or more than baseball. Yes, FIFA has its corruption, but it’s a game that is very hard to cheat at, regardless of the amount of technology available, and the desire to win.

By the way, in 2017 I wanted the Astros to win, without knowing the full story of how they got there.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

5 Comments

Filed under Baseball, ethics, faith, film

5 responses to “The Astros Sign Stealing Scandal and the Importance of Baseball to American Life

  1. Steven

    Hey Padre,

    A couple of things…

    To your idyll about rugby: Rugby is a rough-house sport for working class people; American Football is a rough-house sport for working class people. And that’s pretty much where the similarity ends, outside of both sports using a ball. Comparing them is no more valid than comparing Baseball with cricket.

    There isn’t a Rugby Player in the world who could survive a single play in American Football. An American Football player would be hopelessly, absurdly, outclassed in a Rugby match, and if forced to play the entire game, would collapse from exhaustion long before the end.

    All the assertions about “no pads” or “slow motion”, are so much smoke and mirrors—the games are simply not the same.

    Cheating, on the other hand, is something you have to parse rather more carefully in Professional Sports.

    Professional Sports involve Capitalist Corporations. Maybe you missed this in Seminary, but Corporations make money. They don’t make airplanes, washing machines, or baseball teams. They certainly do not “play fair”.

    If you really want to bring poor President Turnip into this thing, then look at him for what he really is—a Real Estate salesman. There is no such thing as “cheating” in Capitalism. The more regulations one eliminates, the closer on gets to Pure Capitalism: making money from having money.

    Regulation is what puts the pasties on the stripper. Like any good stripper, Capitalism peels them off whenever it can, figuring the people who embrace it know what their “hiding” and want to see it (them).

    One of the advantages American Football has over Baseball is a much stronger central authority. Football is protecting a closed market, while Baseball is really just projecting a PR scheme (it’s a game).

    Winning a World Series or a Superbowl brings lucre. Lots of it. This is the job of a Corporation, and Corporations own Sports Teams. Therefore, winning a game and winning “The Series” are more or less the same mechanic—a means of making money.

    Players are another way of making money, which is why they **seem** to make “so much money”. They are skilled tradespeople. Their value is in making it more likely the Corporation will make more money in any given game they play in—and in Baseball, the market and the game are intricately linked; not so in Football.

    It isn’t “cheating” that ruined sports in America (or Europe); Capitalism ruined sports the moment a Team became a Corporation.

    My nickel.

  2. David W. HARRIS

    Good evening Padre, if you think Baseball is more corrupt than league football…soccer…then it really must be giving it the gas ..so to speak. I went to a Padres game when I visited San Diego in 1980 and although I had no idea of the game at all I went with my host who was a season ticket holder. We sat with other season ticket holders and it was the most convivial sports event I have ever witnessed. I really enjoyed it, however I understand that the Padres as a team are out the back of beyond.
    I must dispute the first comment by your previous respondent in respect of Rugby Football which is the game I played. Rugby is a ruffians game played by gentlemen and began in one of the most expensive schools in England and only the two professional league teams comprise a majority of players who are not from public schools, which in England are not State institutions, the cost of sending a boy to Rugby School today is £27,000.00p a year . Soccer is referred to as a gentleman’s game for ruffians.. American Football began as Rugby but developed into an entirely different game when forward passing of the ball was adopted. I have never been able to witness a game live but sometimes watch it on TV. I think the game would be improved by grounding the ball to complete the touchdown. Just an opinion.
    Regards DWH

  3. Jack Kellbach

    Hi Padre,

    Just for the record, the Black Sox scandal was in 1919. Interestingly, many now believe that the cross-town rival Cubs actually threw the 1918 World Series to the Red Sox but were never caught. It’s not entirely surprising that this could have happened in the Chicago of that period.

    All the best, Jack

    • padresteve

      Thanks, Jack. I knew the it was 1919 but had a complete brain fart. Thank yo for also mentioning the latest about the Cubs possibly throwing the 1918 series. I’ll have to do some work on that to catch up, but if so it puts a fascinating twist on the supposed curse on both teams.

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