When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I went to see the Mets play the Nationals in Washington D.C., and we had passes to watch batting practice on the field from the warning track behind home plate. At one point, Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado, who was playing catch with one of his teammates, threw one a bit wild and it got away from his partner. I immediately ran onto the field to grab it with the intention of throwing it back, and when I bent down to grab it and looked up, I was greeted by his partner, Carlos Beltran, standing above me smiling. I handed him the ball, he took it and then gave it right back to me. It’s one of my favorite sports memories, and now, it’s sullied forever.
Yes, the Astros very well could have cheated the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers out of the postseason. While there’s no way to know if they still would have won without cheating, the fact of the matter is it wasn’t a fair fight.
The Astros probably ruined at least a handful of player’s careers with this system. Who knows how many players fighting for a roster spot lost one because the Astros batters knew what pitch they were going to throw. Twitter user Stephen Josiah (@StephenJosiah13) pointed this out in relation to a home run George Springer hit off Mets pitcher Chris Flexen, where you can clearly hear the trash can scheme in use.
Ugh the look on Flexen's face. His entire body language. This is a pitcher on the true fringes of Major League Baseball getting cheated.
— Stephen Josiah (@StephenJosiah13) January 18, 2020
“Ugh the look on Flexen’s face,” Josiah wrote. “His entire body language. This is a pitcher on the true fringes of Major League Baseball getting cheated. Horrible.”
Even for players not in danger of losing a roster spot, like Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish among others, they still hurt their reputations resulting in months if not years of jokes and ridicule that not many, including myself, are exempt from. Who knows how the career trajectory of those two players would have changed if they didn’t lose games 5 and 7 in the 2017 World Series? That’s not to mention all the pitchers who gave up big hits and even lost games because Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran or any of the other players on the team knew what they were going to throw them.
This scandal is huge. It’s probably even bigger than steroids, because one could argue that every team probably was participating in that one. No, here, it’s just one or two (the 2018 Red Sox still have a lot of questions surrounding them) teams that we know of that cheated.
But if you’ve been following this scandal, what I’m saying is nothing new. What isn’t really being talked about is the impact this scandal has on the fans. After all, the fans make the game, if there were no fans, the players who cheated wouldn’t be making millions of dollars a year.
This scandal really isn’t a “scandal” at all; It’s much worse than that. This is a stain on the history of baseball. This is a black mark that can never be erased. What the players who participated in this scheme did is nothing short of disrespectful to all the people who support them.
Let’s take it back to the second half of 2017. On Aug. 25, Hurricane Harvey made landfall. The Category 4 hurricane caused at least 88 deaths and $125 million in damage according to WorldVision.org, and the city of Houston was one of the hardest hit.
Just two months later, the Astros were playing in the World Series. At the time, it felt like it was meant to be. The city of Houston needed a win, and if you were anything but a Dodgers fan, it was hard to root against them.
I personally pulled for them hard. I had additional reasons, like a dislike for the Dodgers stemming from the 2015 NLDS and wanting to root for former UConn star George Springer, but rooting for the city of Houston, not even the team itself, seemed like the right thing to do.
Their Game 7 win was the culmination of the perfect storyline – a city, that had just been knocked down by mother nature, rising up, rallying behind their team and becoming world champions.
Now, the 2017 World Series will be remembered for something much different. Instead of being remembered for triumph in the wake of tragedy like it should be, it will be remembered for a garbage can and a video camera. Even though it might not be an official one, it will forever have an asterisk.
And, unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. The players, who just a few months ago were admired not only for their excellence on the diamond but also for their impact on the community, are looked at – rightfully so – as cheaters.
I started this column off with a personal story for a reason: I wanted to illustrate how wide-ranging the effect this, for lack of a better word, scandal, really is. It extends far past the players and the teams. It reaches all corners of the baseball world.
My small interaction with Carlos Beltran stuck with me because of how flat-out awesome it was for the little kid that I was to come face to face with one of my baseball heroes at the time. Whenever I used to hear his name, I would always remember it, and now all I think of is how he was one of the ringleaders in the Astros cheating scheme.
And it’s not just me. There are undoubtedly thousands, if not millions of people who also had one of their memories stained as a result of this, whether it be meeting their favorite player, catching a foul ball or just being able to watch them play along with countless other scenarios.
One of the most heartbreaking stories comes from Seiko Darvish (@seiko63), who on Twitter recounted her experience watching Game 7 of the 2017 World Series with her son, a game that her husband, Yu, started.
If there actually was a parade, that would be amazing. That day, game 7, I will never forget my son who was 10 year old at that time, watching the game all the way through till the end while trying to hide his tears with his hat. https://t.co/jHkioogH4o
— Seiko Darvish (@seiko63) January 14, 2020
“That day, game 7, I will never forget my son who was 10 year old at that time, watching the game all the way through till the end while trying to hide his tears with his hat,” Darvish wrote.
Yu lasted just 1.2 innings, gave up five runs, four earned, and the Dodgers lost 5-1.
I, along with probably many others, lost all respect for the players and coaches who participated once the news broke. That 2017 Astros team was fun to watch. They could hit, they could pitch, they could field, they really could do it all. At the end of the day, it’s just so disappointing and sad to find out that they accomplished what they accomplished in the manner that they did.
At the end of the 2017 season, I wrote an article where I adamantly argued for Altuve to be the MVP after his fantastic season. Watching someone of his size tear up the league was incredible, and it was fun to compare him to the behemoth that was his main competition for the award. Now, looking back on it with what I know now, I would have cast my fictitious vote for Aaron Judge.
So, sure, MLB, fine them the equivalent of what Todd Frazier and Sergio Romo are going to get paid in 2020. You can take away a couple of their high draft picks. Go ahead and suspend the coaches and front office members who were involved or knew about it and didn’t do enough to stop it. But the damage is done, and there’s no reversing it.
The city of Houston had something magical taken away from them, and everyone involved should be ashamed of their actions. They should apologize to their fans for ruining something that meant so much to the city and not just hide behind clearly scripted responses.
They should take ownership. Mike Fiers did the right thing by stepping forward; this is important, but man is it sad. It’s going to follow these players for the rest of their careers, and probably even their lives. Jose Altuve was tracking towards being a Hall-of-Famer, but now, I wouldn’t be surprised if he receives a much harsher treatment than Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and all of the steroid guys.
This could hurt Justin Verlander’s legacy. The longtime Detroit Tiger is already a shoe-in for the Hall, but now, questions are going to be raised about how much he knew and if he was complicit in the scheme in order to get his first, and as of now only ring.
Carlos Beltran is set to hit the Hall-of-Fame ballot in 2023, and has thus-far been looked at as a fringe hall-of-famer, someone who has a decent chance of getting in but probably not for at least a few years. With this now on his resume, I believe his chances have fallen drastically.
The players need to make this right. Not A.J. Hinch, not Alex Cora, the players. They are the ones who used and abused this cheating system. They are the ones who essentially lied to their fans by cheating. They are the ones who made one of the most important World Series wins in history to a fanbase something to be embarrassed by.
But they’re the ones who should be embarrassed. Embarrassed that they disrespected their opponent, disrespected the fans and disrespected the game.