Kurkjian: Astros’ scandal symptom of large problem in MLB
Tim Kurkjian is concerned that the Astros’ scandal is a sign that some of the new-age executives in MLB think they can outsmart the game.
That sounds far-fetched, like the sort of politicking a commissioner does to placate one of his bosses. What Manfred can do is fast-track the announcement of a new policy on the in-game use of technology, one that holds players and management accountable and entails the sort of harsh penalties Luhnow and Hinch received. The sport needs buy-in from all parties to actually move on.
Hinch tried. In a statement, he apologized and acknowledged that he could’ve tried to do better — to tell players and coaches to stop instead of breaking the video monitor twice in protest. He didn’t. There wasn’t much sympathy for Hinch’s actions around baseball, but there was a willingness to forgive. Executives agreed: He’ll manage again after being suspended through the end of this World Series.
Like Crane, Luhnow apologized to the team, the fans and the city. He said in a statement, “I am not a cheater.” That doesn’t exactly square with the team he ran cheating during its championship-winning season and with the information in Manfred’s report that “at least two emails sent to Luhnow” informed him of replay-review room sign decoding, about which he did nothing. Luhnow continued to try to clear himself of responsibility while blaming “players” and “low-level employees working with the bench coach.” Considering his apparent affinity for throwing people under the bus, let us hope Luhnow’s next career does not involve large motor vehicles.
The rest of baseball is bracing for the fallout of the Astros’ punishment, and most do believe one purpose was served: that Manfred’s disciplinary choices will prompt the rank-and-file to avoid any sort of electronically aided sign-stealing schemes.
“It will scare employees of MLB teams from cheating, at least for a while,” one high-ranking executive said, “and the man who owns the team gets to enjoy his ring. He gets off lightly and can start with a clean slate.”
This refrain was common inside the game, and it came with a question that was rhetorical-but-not-really, one that illustrated how Jim Crane won the day that his franchise lost. How many owners in baseball would trade $5 million, four high draft picks and the firing of their GM and manager in exchange for a World Series title?
Twenty-five? Twenty-eight? All 30? “I don’t know that I would,” one team president said, “but I don’t know that I wouldn’t.” It was an honest answer. The decisions made in search of championships, in service of winning, are complicated. Right and wrong blur. It’s why Manfred chafes at the complaints of owners. How many are being honest about what they’d do in that same scenario?
Whatever the answer, the remaining two mentions of Crane in Manfred’s report do yeoman’s work of clearing him. The first said it was “difficult to question” Crane giving Luhnow responsibility of baseball operations. The second stated, as fact, that Crane “was unaware of any of the violations of MLB rules by his club.” And that was it. A thorough and impressive whitewashing. Tidy, clean, carefully orchestrated, meticulously calibrated. The Houston Astros, same as they ever were.