Perhaps there are no good and evil in baseball, but the sentiment could easily be applied to the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal, and the indifference of Major League Baseball to address the problem.
After all, the Astros cheated their way to the 2017 World Series championship and were within minutes of stealing another World Series in 2019.
For all that the Astros stole from baseball, particularly teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers (their 2017 World Series opponents), they paid almost no penalty.
Sure, they got one-year suspensions served to the manager and general manager (who were subsequently fired), and then MLB fined the team $5 million and removed several draft picks.
Name me one owner in baseball (or any sport that makes money) who wouldn’t give $5 million to hoist a championship trophy. I’ll wait.
The Astros made $5 million many times over in merchandise, season tickets, hometown discounts, a good deal on a new Spring Training facility, and concessions since winning the World Series. That money means nothing.
When pressed to address the issue in a press conference this week, club leadership had a hard time apologizing - because they aren’t sorry.
The 2017 Astros won’t have to vacate the title, return the rings or gain an asterisk. They also won’t be shipping the trophy back to the league offices, so they can continue to benefit from its existence for marketing and recruitment.
If that is the price of conducting dirty business, then there’s no team in baseball that shouldn’t be cheating, and that includes the Washington Nationals. The Nats beat the cheating Astros, which means they could be a dynasty if they joined them in sign-stealing.
Juan Soto is one of the scariest hitters in baseball, but imagine how good he would be if he knew when a fastball was on the way. How many bases could Trea Turner steal if he was running on every pitch in the dirt?
It was the hitters who were directly involved and benefited from the cheating strategy, and yet zero Astros players will face individual punishment.
How is that even possible? In the course of the investigation, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred offered players immunity in exchange for information.
“I understand people's desire to have the players pay a price for what went on here. I think if you watch the players, watch their faces when they have to deal with this issue publicly, they have paid a price,” Manfred told ESPN. “If you look at the face of the Houston players...they've been hurt by this.”
Does he mean Jose Altuve, the 2017 World Series champion, AL Most Valuable Player, and AP Athlete of the Year, who signed a five-year extension worth $151 million in 2018? He looks devastated.
Or did he mean Alex Bregman, the 2019 AL Silver Slugger Award winner at third base, runner-up for 2019 American League Most Valuable Player, and All-MLB Second Team, who signed a six-year, $100-million extension in 2018? He looks traumatized.
Through his inaction, Manfred has undermined the integrity of baseball’s rulebook and disincentivized any player or team from complying.
Looking for generational wealth, fame and championships? Just follow the Astros' lead: win titles, strike an immunity deal, and look sad in front of the cameras.
Maybe Manfred was born yesterday, or maybe baseball has finally embraced the old mantra: if you ain’t cheating, you ain't trying.