In case it’s slipped your mind, in just a few short weeks the 2020 major league baseball season will begin in earnest. Spring Training is in full swing (pun intended), and hope springs eternal for fans of every team, knowing “this is our year!”

Unfortunately, there’s a taint of scandal hanging over ballfields in Florida and Arizona right now. It has come to light in the past few months that one team in particular, the Houston Astros, have been cheating. That’s a harsh word but justified. Players on the Texas team stole signs between the opposing catchers and pitchers.

For those not intimately familiar with the baseball game-within-the-game, catchers squatting behind the plate will secretly indicate to pitchers standing on the mound which pitch they would like the hurler to throw. Fastball, curve, slider, etc., are indicated usually by the catcher showing the pitcher one finger, two, three, or a combination. The signs are hidden from the batter, so he has no idea what’s coming at him.

Alas, for at least the last couple of years, the Astros have been using technology to steal those signs and relaying the information to their hitters standing in the batter’s box at home plate. Players in the dugout would transmit the selected pitch to the hitter by banging a bat on the dugout wall a prescribed number of times to indicate what pitch was coming. The big advantage to that is, if a major league hitter knows what is going to be thrown to him, he has a much-improved chance of getting a hit.

The Astros have now been caught red-handed. Some of the players have acknowledged what they did. As a result, the team’s manager and general manager (the guy who makes the trades), have been fired. But nothing has happened to the players involved.

There are aficionados of the grand old game who feel there should be suspensions involved for those who took part in the larceny. But that might mean punishing the entire team. If that were to happen, the Houston fans, who did nothing wrong, might just suffer more than the players. 

Yet something needs to be done to ensure the integrity of the game. I have a friend who has suggested rolling suspensions. Have three or four Astros sit out 25 game, then three or four different ones for 25 more, and so on throughout the season. 

That may work. In addition, I’ve come up with a few other possible penalties that I believe would make any team think twice before stealing signs again. For example:

  • No one on the Astros can wear a glove to catch a ball.
  • Every player has to throw with his non-dominant hand. That includes pitchers.
  • No cleats allowed. Sneakers are acceptable, but you can’t wear spikes.
  • Astros’ pitchers have to tell opposing batters what pitch they’re about to throw.
  • Houston only gets two outs per inning.
  • Only eight Houston players can be on the diamond at once. (They can play two outfielders or three infielders, or any combination they like.)
  • No Astro gets paid a penny in 2020. The team will be required to donate all the players’ salaries to charity.

Hopefully, these penalties would make every player/team think long and hard about cheating at the sport of baseball in the future. And that includes taking performance-enhancing drugs, or betting on the game as an active player. 

If Rob Manfred, the Commissioner of Baseball, doesn’t come up with some type of appropriate action against the Houston players involved in the sign-stealing underhandedness, there’s little reason to believe something similar won’t happen again. 

Outstanding players such as Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemons, Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGuire, and Manny Ramirez, among others, have tainted reputations because of allegedly (and sometimes admittedly) using PEDs. None have been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

My favorite ballplayer of all time, Pete Rose, is banned for life (since 1989) from the sport he loves because he bet on games (and not necessarily his own) when he managed the Cincinnati Reds. Pete collected more hits (4,256) that anyone else who has ever put on a major league uniform. He’s not in the Hall of Fame either. I happen to think Pete has “served his time” and deserves a chance to be voted in by the sportswriters who do such things. But that’s another matter.

For now, perhaps Pete’s fate should befall the Astros. Let them sit on the sidelines for 30 years and think about what they did.

©MMXX. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer