This one has to be recorded in Bronx Pinstripes history. Let me preface this piece before I lean into it. My opinion is obviously bias. I’m a Yankees fan. Everyone reading this article is probably a Yankees fan. It sucks that 2017 and 2018 didn’t go our way. Of course the Yankees shouldn’t be handed the Commissioner’s Trophy just because the Astros and Red Sox cheated during those respective season.
This isn’t about the Yankees though. This is about the integrity of the game as we know it. When it came time to defend that integrity, Rob Manfred handled it poorly.
On Wednesday, the league released its findings of the investigation into the alleged 2018 electronic sign-stealing by the Boston Red Sox. The league found that most of the cheating was credited to J.T. Watkins, the Red Sox video replay room operator. As a result, the league suspended Watkins for the 2020 season/postseason and took the Red Sox second round pick in the 2020 amateur draft. Ok, that’s the end of the politically correct and “nice” words I have for this article.
This is bullshit. I’m not down with debating the degree to which the Red Sox cheated when compared to the way the Astros cheated. Cheating is cheating. I’m not saying every act of cheating is equal. What I’m saying is if you cheat, you get punished. Plain and simple. The Red Sox replay operator used team equipment to aid the players in a way that gave them a distinct advantage on the field. Period, end of story.
J.T. Watkins got a punishment that he most definitely deserved. However, stripping the organization of one draft pick doesn’t cut it for me. Think about the premise. The replay operator, of his own volition, decided to move forward with a cheating scheme. Is he really so committed to organization that he would help the team without making it known to anyone else in said organization? Something had to be motivating him to do it, and if that is true that means other people within the Red Sox organization knew about it. It’s either that or this guy was a die hard Sox fan from day one.
Now, to the idea that baseball has a bunch of hidden ways that players cheat, so it’s not as a big of a deal. That’s partially true. There is a bunch of stuff that players do, have done, and will continue to do that doesn’t follow the letter of the law. For example, pine tar (ahem Michael Pineda ahem). I understand why the rule is there. However, every team has access to pine tar, which means every team has access to the same advantage. You can bet your ass that every pitcher uses either pine tar or the rosin bag every time they take the mound. Would your counter argument be “well every team has a replay operator and access to cameras?” Ok, that true. I find it hard to believe that other teams were doing what the Red Sox and Astros were doing based on the actions of one man. Mike Fiers.
I’m not saying Mike Fiers was right (or wrong) for blowing the whistle on Houston. I will say that he’s got a brass set on him. Since coming out with the Astros’ behind the scenes shenanigans, he’s received criticism from current and former players. He’s also received death threats. He has told reporters it doesn’t bother him, but as much as I love the ‘80s style macho routine, that stuff will get to anyone after a while.
Why am I showing my true feelings for Mike Fiers right now? Is Mike Fiers the only person with the intestinal fortitude to break the silence? He could be, but I doubt it. So the only conclusion I can come to is that the rest of baseball (so far) doesn’t use electronic equipment to cheat while the game is ongoing. Otherwise we would have a lot more examples of players blowing the whistle on their team’s actions.
So Mr. Manfred. What the hell?
You really think the Red Sox got just desserts? I don’t think so. The point of punishing the Astros and Red Sox wasn’t to come up with something that “fit the crime”. The idea behind the disciplinary action was to discourage future teams from doing something similar and show baseball fans that you are dedicated to keeping baseball’s integrity intact as the commissioner of Major League Baseball.
Whether we all want to admit it or not, baseball has lost something. It’s hard to put into words what that is exactly. Don’t get me wrong though, we still love baseball. Maybe the next time I see a Yankee holding the Commissioner’s Trophy, I’ll get that something back. I sure hope I do. Until then, I’m going to direct my anger at the Astros, the Red Sox, and Rob Manfred to get me through this stupid virus lockdown that’s keeping my favorite sport dormant and generally making my life a sport- less, living hell.