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AZ SnakePit Round Table: TrashcanGate Part I

We have... thoughts...

Biggest underground bin system in UK at new Cambridge district Eddington Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

An obvious topic for discussion in this round table, and a bumper crop of writers wanted to chip in. As the total length cruised past four thousand words, it seemed best to split it up into two parts, so here’s the first one. The balance will follow later in the week. I’ve also folded in some polls on the topic, and the results of the SB Nation special Fanpulse survey across all the team sites.

Should the Astros have been more harshly treated?

Charlie: Weirdly, the punishment was both appropriate, and somehow not enough. They’ll definitely have a phantom pain where those draft picks were, and Jeff Lunhow can go back to his roots and work for a company that shortsells baby food. However, the fact that ownership was given a pass and that no players other than Beltran were implicated made it seem like MLB wanted to sweep this under the rug and leave it at that. As we saw Thursday, that definitely did not happen.

Jack: I agree with Charlie. MLB desperately wants this to go away, and they tried very hard to mete out justice that would seem harsh enough to put this to bed. But it’s not going away just yet.

Keegan: If you believe that they were the only team doing it which I certainly don’t. The whole thing reeks, and I feel like MLB is trying to make everyone forget about this as soon as possible. I can’t disagree with my peers here.

Turambar: Players needed to be punished in a big way for any kind of justice to take hold. Gotta agree that MLB wanted to make this go away quickly with the punishment they handed out, but by making the players involved immune you essentially guarantee that others will try something like this again in the future. Yea guys like Altuve will get grief for this and their careers will be tarnished, but that’s all. Something more needed to be done against those that actually did the deed.

Dano: Cheating sucks, and cheaters suck. I’m kinda with Keegan, though, in that I don’t believe for a second that the Astros were the only team doing this sort of thing. They got caught, which, quite possibly, means that they suck at cheating more than a lot of other teams, which is in its own way kind of pathetic.

And of course MLB wants this to go away as soon as possible, and wants the whole thing swept under the rug. This is only the visible tip, though, of what I suspect is a very big iceberg (nothing like the mixing of metaphors to get one’s blood pumping, right?), and the Astros getting stomped seems fair, but as Charlie notes, somehow inadequate.

Makakilo: The punishment was just enough to deter future cheating, but stopped short of harsh.

  • The money value of their punishment was more than $32.8 million (two first round picks (at least $20.2 million), two second round picks (at least $7.6 Million), plus a fine ($5 Million). That amount exceeds my estimated value of the bonus that is split between the members of the winner of the World Series. So that aspect of the punishment is adequate.
  • Suspending AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow, who are generally regarded as among the best at their jobs, will hurt the Astros big-time. They were running the operations side of the organization and failed to tell players about Manfred’s directive. It appears they knew about the cheating, and yet did nothing to stop it. The owner fired them either because a fresh start was preferable to experiencing a year of temporary, or because they could have stopped the cheating sooner.
  • Many Astro fans have experienced mental anguish over the Astro’s tarnished reputation. They will heal in time.

James: Without being able to punish players, the punishment handed down is probably about the harshest that could have reasonably been expected. It feels very much like the sort of penalty that a few other teams might be willing to trade for an actual World Series banner, but that is sort of where baseball has wound up these days. So long as the team keeps winning, the Astros will likely get over the entire affair much quicker than anyone else. As Jack pointed out, MLB badly wants this entire affair to go away, but it won’t - not yet.

Steven: Yes. The precedent is set. With no players punished, I’m not sure how it dissuades players from continuing to try and cheat because it won’t ruin their bottom line. Still, it was heavy on the Astros and even worse for their championship season, now tarnished by this scandal.

Wesley: Absolutely the punishment should be severe. I think any owner would take that punishment in exchange for a World Series title. The punishment should be severe enough that any owner/team/player should have see cheating as not even an option. The Brave got punished more severely for overpaying poor kids from the Dominican Republic, so it’s ridiculous that a team cheated this blatantly and were punished less severely.

Jim: It seems a reasonable punishment to me. Don’t forget, MLB doesn’t object to teams stealing signs on principal. The crime was the way the Astros went about stealing signs, using technology to streamline the process and make it more efficient.

Poll

The Astros’ punishment was...

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Far too harsh
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    Somewhat too harsh
    (2 votes)
  • 35%
    About right
    (35 votes)
  • 43%
    Somewhat too weak
    (43 votes)
  • 16%
    Far too weak
    (16 votes)
100 votes total Vote Now

Is it okay that no player has been punished?

Charlie: It’s… odd that one wasn’t, especially since a player would probably have been an easy scapegoat.

Jack: Yes. The complexities are insurmountable. Determining exactly who ALL the players involved were is almost impossible. Also, with player movement, you end up punishing other teams that may not have engaged in any such activity. And then there is the practicality of dealing with MLBPA and endless grievance resolution. Finally, if you start punishing players after granting immunity for testimony, then you shut off your source of investigation. All that said, MLB needs to get their act together and make it clear to the Union that any further violations will result in player suspensions.

Keegan: I understand and agree with the reasoning for not punishing a player. You start punishing players and they’re never going to cooperate in an investigation. Besides, this responsibility has to fall on the shoulders of those in control, the manager, coaches, and general manager to ensure this organizational infidelity isn’t taking place. Let’s be real, the Astros front office wasn’t a model group the past few months on multiple fronts.

Turambar: I get why (players union drama) but it’s not “ok”. Players were the ones instigating and running this thing from start to finish. A message needs to be sent to the players that this kind of stuff is not “ok”.

Dano: No, absolutely not. Sure, there are all sorts of practical reasons for not punishing players, and from a realpolitik perspective all of the points made above are completely sensible. Still and yet. Per Turambar, “[p]layers were the ones instigating this from start to finish.” Punishing management is fine, so far as it goes, but even as harsh as the Astros’ punishment was, I don’t imagine that it will to dissuade players from this sort of conduct unless there’s censure, with teeth, that hits them as well.

Makakilo: Two reasons not to punish the players.

  • Luhnow and Hinch did not provide guidance or instruction to stop the cheating.
  • Thinking two steps ahead, it likely that punishing players would result in a long and contentious battle with the players union just prior to the next collective bargaining agreement, which would increase the odds of a long and unpleasant strike, which would damage baseball.

James: Immunity is what was agreed upon, so I guess it is “okay”. Frankly, I’m not sure how MLB would have ever been able to irrefutably determine which players were and were not a part of the scheme. THen there is the problem of some players having moved on to other teams. I actually feel bad for Zack Greinke. He hates the media circus. Now he has been traded into the middle of one. Having a less than happy Greinke in the clubhouse might still end up being a player punishment before this is all over. I agree with Jack though. Once this league-wide investigation has been brought to an initial close, MLB needs to make it clear to the MLBPA that any future infractions will result in severe player penalties.

Steven: I mentioned it in the previous answer, but yes. Players were complicit and as we saw already from Clevinger, I see some heavy policing to be done on the field this year. I expect 15+ brawls from the Astros on the season.

Wesley: Even if determining which players were involved was nearly impossible, I still find it quite disheartening that no payers were punished. All that needs to be done to determine who was involved is to go through footage and document who used the trash can system or not.

Jim: Seems particularly odd for a scheme openly acknowledged as being “player driven”, not to have led to any sanctions against a single player. It would have been nice if the player’s union had come out and said to MLB, “Go ahead. We don’t condone this kind of behavior at all.” But I guess this is what happens when you have a union that’s too powerful, and puts its members interests ahead of morality.

Poll

Should guilty players have been punished?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Yes
    (72 votes)
  • 20%
    No
    (18 votes)
90 votes total Vote Now

How many other teams do you think engaged in illegal sign-stealing?

Charlie: Wouldn’t surprise me if most, if not all, were.

Jack: I won’t speculate on a number other than to say I’m pretty sure it’s more than one and less than 31.

Keegan: Likely the vast majority.

Turambar: Everyone steals signs or at least try to, to the extent of the Astros….unknown. Likely many have to one extent or another over the years.

Dano: Everybody does it, I expect, with varying degrees of sophistication and varying degrees of competence in terms of concealing what they’re up to. Given that, the affront that the Astros are most guilty of, in a sense, is that it wound up being so goddamned obvious. I mean, come on, people. If you can’t at least make it hard for the league to catch you, you deserve what you get and you’re an embarrassment to the game.

Makakilo: Unless an investigation shows otherwise, my opinion is that only the Astros engaged in illegal sign stealing.

James: Many of them. I’m willing to concede the notion that not all of them were involved. That leaves as many as 28 others though.

Steven: With a loose definition of the word cheating I’d expect all teams guilty to varying degrees.

Wesley: I don’t think many teams were illegally stealing signs, but do I believe that all teams steal signs. It’s just part of the game. Using electronics to steal signs definitely isn’t.

Jim: Maybe not to the extent of the Astros, or necessarily in the same way, but if you’re not pushing the envelope, you’re arguably not trying hard enough.

Poll

How many teams do you think engage in electronic sign stealing?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Just the Astros
    (1 vote)
  • 28%
    A handful or fewer
    (27 votes)
  • 30%
    Less than half
    (29 votes)
  • 18%
    More than half
    (18 votes)
  • 21%
    Virtually everyone
    (20 votes)
95 votes total Vote Now

How would you react if evidence came out implicating the D-backs?

Charlie: “Wow, and you were still hovering around .500 most of these years? Good job, everyone.”

Jack: Unsurprised.

Keegan: Don’t forget that Ariel Prieto was fined for wearing an Apple watch in the dugout during the Wild Card game against the Rockies in 2017. Probably should end it swiftly if they were. The team can’t afford to be losing as many draft picks as the Astros did.

Turambar: Confused, since our home record has been mostly “meh”.

Dano: I suspect I’d shrug, sigh, wish they hadn’t been assholes like that or that they had at least been sufficiently competent as to not get caught, and at the end of the day I’d continue rooting for my team. What else can you do, ultimately?

Makakilo: Three reactions:

  • Woefully distraught and upset because of the loss of Hazen and Lovullo just as the season was starting. The damage to the D-backs would be severe.
  • An Astro fan wrote that he suffered mental soul-searching anguish and he looks forward to a clean start this season. If the D-backs were implicated I would suffer the same unpleasant fate.
  • It would not pass the smell test. I see no evidence of win-at-all-costs. And the D-backs win-loss record speaks volumes that they did not have an unfair advantage.

James: Jack stole my exact answer - unsurprised.

Steven: Depends on which years, Lovullo and Co? Disappointed. Chip Hale? Meh

Wesley: I’m Jack’s complete lack of surprise. Fight Club quotes aside, it’d depend on which year it was, which coaches were involved, and how they did it.

Jim: Disappointed. But I would actually be more surprised than anything. I really cannot see Paul Goldschmidt being prepared to tolerate that kind of thing. So they’d either have to have done so without his knowledge, or St. Paul isn’t as saintly as I’d like to think.

Poll

If the D-backs were found to be involved, I would be...

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Extremely disappointed
    (40 votes)
  • 28%
    Very disappointed
    (27 votes)
  • 14%
    Somewhat disappointed
    (14 votes)
  • 8%
    Slightly disappointed
    (8 votes)
  • 5%
    Not at all disappointed
    (5 votes)
94 votes total Vote Now