The Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, which was uncovered at the end of 2019, has largely boiled over. While MLB did hand down some disciplinary measures, including one-year suspensions for manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, we’re now in 2022, and the Astros seem to have moved past it. Many of the players from the 2017 roster that both won the World Series and were found to have cheated to win it are still in Houston, on a team that has since continued to succeed in the league.
While there is nothing wrong with that, and the honest truth of the matter is that the Astros were most likely not the only team using some form of technology to gain an edge (the Red Sox were caught using Apple watches), there is a significant double standard when it comes to how those who break baseball’s rules nowadays are treated compared to their predecessors. Two famous examples of this are the 1919 Chicago White Sox team, dubbed the “Black Sox,” and former Cincinnati Reds great Pete Rose. Since baseball apparently holds some sacred value, both parties have been wiped from the slate of baseball memory due to their apparent sacrilegious acts. That just shouldn’t stand when the memories of the baseball world have gotten significantly shorter regarding contemporary offenders.
One of the main reasons for pardoning Rose and the White Sox is that neither broke the rules to gain a competitive advantage as the Astros did. In fact, both were banned for reasons related to betting on the game, a practice that has gone from taboo to front and center in the modern age. Prior to the Black Sox scandal, betting was commonplace in baseball according to history.com, but the team was used as a scapegoat by a league that wanted to crack down on corruption. What the team did was bad and involved them throwing games for money, but it has been over 100 years since and we’ve had actual cheaters do far worse and receive far less of a punishment.
Rose was a direct victim of the Black Sox rule change, as he bet on his own team and was banned from baseball because of it. Contrary to the Sox, who altered the state of a game to ensure cash payouts, Rose maintains to this day that he only ever bet on his team to win, and if that’s true, is there anything really that wrong with what he did?
In the end, memorialization is truly the only reason any of this really matters. Rose and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson are two figures who deserve to be remembered alongside baseball’s greatest players, yet they still continue to be barred from the Hall of Fame. With Jackson, the time has long passed for him to celebrate an induction, as he died in 1951, but Rose is still alive today at the age of 80.
While the time has not yet come to debate whether Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa or any of the 2017 Astros will be allowed into the Hall of Fame, nothing has been said that would bar them from it in the cases of Rose and Jackson. At the very least, the decision should be left up to the writers who vote for the Hall. A league that makes a large profit from partnerships with companies like DraftKings and FanDuel (and also allows players that were found to have cheated to continue playing the game) should not be able to keep players like Rose and Jackson off the ballot for the Hall of Fame.