There’s a lot happening within Major League Baseball’s universe. Mookie Betts is almost a San Diego Padre… or a Los Angeles Dodger, The Mets are signing utility infielders, and the Diamondbacks are LEGIT AS HELL. So things are great for the MLB as we’re now weeks away from Pitchers and Catcher reporting to Spring Training!
Just kidding, there’s also the rampant cheating that’s been happening across the league! How could we forget about that?
We are now in the thick of this entire issue as we wait for more information to come out of the commissioner’s office. I know, we’re all sick and tired of talking about this. However, a piece of the scandal that hangs in the balance of the public eye, is who gets to keep the spoils of war? Who really won the 2017 and 2018 World Series, and is it the Los Angeles Dodgers?
Personally, that doesn’t matter to me, nor do I think vacating the World Series victories would do anything productive. Because history has shown us that vacating wins doesn’t do anything. Let’s look at a few examples.
For the sake of transparency, I am certainly not saying all of these infractions, violations, and in some cases literal crimes, are all on the same plane. On the contrary, I want to look at the specific fallout from the punishments. So let’s start with a big one.
Penn State Football Following the Jerry Sandusky Sex Abuse Scandal
This is possibly the worst scandal in NCAA history, no matter how you slice it. Over a period time spanning at least 15 years, Penn State’s Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky had been molesting and raping teenage boys, occasionally on Penn State’s campus and in their football facilities.
On multiple occasions, several Penn State coaches and school officials were made aware of Sandusky’s behaviors. For years they remained silent, including Head Coach Joe Paterno, who, at the time, was the winningest College Football Coach of all-time.
In the wake of the scandal breaking, the Penn State Board of Trustsees hired former FBI Director Louis Freeh to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations. The Freeh Report, as it is known, details the countless times Penn State officials and coaches neglected to inform law enforcement about Sandusky.
Eight months after details of the scandal emerged, the NCAA announced their punishment for Penn State.
- “Five years probation.
- A four-year postseason ban.
- Vacating of all wins from 1998 to 2011– a total of 112 wins in all. This had the effect of stripping the Nittany Lions of their shared Big Ten titles in 2005 and 2008. It also removed 111 wins from Paterno’s record, dropping him from first to 12th on the NCAA’s all-time wins list.
- A $60 million fine, the proceeds of which were to go toward an endowment for preventing child abuse. According to the NCAA, this was the equivalent of a typical year’s gross revenue from the football program.
- Loss of a total of forty initial scholarships from 2013 to 2017. During the same period, Penn State was to be limited to 65 total scholarships — only two more than a Division I FCS (formerly I-AA) school was allowed.
- Penn State was required to adopt all recommendations for reform delineated in the Freeh report.
- Penn State entered into an “athletics integrity agreement” with the NCAA and Big Ten, appointed a university-wide athletic compliance officer and compliance council, and accepted an NCAA-appointed athletic integrity monitor for the duration of its probation.”
One tweet that is seared into my brain is this one from former-Nittany Lion and former-NFL player Evan Royster, who said:
That’s because vacating wins does nothing. You know who that penalizes? Joe Paterno. By vacating those wins Paterno immediately fell from the top spot on the all-time winning coach list with 409 wins to 298, good enough for eighth, behind Alabama’s Bear Bryant. You know who that matters to? No one, because it doesn’t help the victims get justice.
Less than five years later, the NCAA rescinded some of the punishments, one of those being the removal of Paterno’s wins. Did anyone care? No. Because vacating wins doesn’t do anything.
The New England Patriots and SpyGate
The New England Patriots have been one of the most controversial sports dynasties of the 21st Century. With six rings to their name, three of those coming in the last five years, the Patriots have been the top dog of the NFL for the good part of the last two decades. Yet, with all of that winning comes some serious scrutiny from the rest of the league.
In 2007, the New York Jets reportedly found a Patriots staffer filming the Jets defensive signals from their sidelines. It should be noted that filming a team’s signals is not illegal in the NFL, but filming them from the sidelines is. Instead, if the Patriots were filming from the designated area, this wouldn’t be an issue, as per the new rule drafted by freshman NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. However, the Patriots were in the wrong. No iffs, ands, or buts.
Bill Belichick then did what he does best: leave a lot of his own words to interpretation.
Belichick pointed out that the 80,000 people in the stadium could see the Jets signs, as can the millions of people watching on TV, and the Patriots didn’t do anything out of the ordinary and that Goodell’s rule was nonsense.
But the story still spiraled as the Patriots went on to their fourth Super Bowl appearance in seven years, finishing the season with a pristine 16-0 record.
As a part of the NFL’s investigation into what was now being called “SpyGate”, the League Office required New England to hand over any and all tapes and notes relating to the act of taping opponents signals. The Patriots refused to let the tapes leave their facilities. So the league officials did the obvious thing. They went to the Patriots facilities, reviewed the tapes and then smashed them all.
The NFL destroyed its own evidence against the Patriots.
This move was criticized, rightly, by just about everyone. However, Goodell stated he had seen enough to believe that that Belichick had been videotaping teams since he joined the Patriots as Head Coach back in 2000.
The Patriots would go on to lose the Super Bowl to Eli Manning and the New York Giants, ending their season with an 18-1 record. In the offseason, Goodell would punish the Patriots by fining Belichick $500,000 (the largest fine levied against a coach in the league’s history), fining the Patriots $250,000 and forced the forfeiture of the New England’s first-round pick in 2008.
YourTeamCheats.Com put Goddell’s punishment in perspective saying he went large, “because parity across all 32 NFL teams is in the best interest of the league. The Patriots dominating the league in the salary-cap era was disruptive to these franchises, a threat to ratings and, ultimately, to league advertising revenues. Docking the Patriots a first-rounder was a concrete way for Goodell and the other 31 owners to try and restore parity. A similar dynamic played out 8-years later with the irrationally large Deflategate penalty.”
Even then-Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini later said he thought the story was blown out of control.
“I didn’t think it was any kind of significant advantage, but I wasn’t going to give them the convenience of doing it in our stadium, and I wanted to shut it down. But there was no intent to get the league involved. There was no intent to have the landslide that it has become.”
SpyGate seems to be focused more on the 2007 season, despite Goodell’s belief that the filming had begun much earlier. And if they were, wouldn’t that mean their 2001, 2003 and 2004 Super Bowl rings were won by cheating? It might. It definitely might.
But, that’s where the Patriots-hate lives. It lives in the smeared reputation of the storied, powerhouse franchise. It lives in the sordid reality that the Patriots possibly cheated to get three rings, and then possibly cheated to win even more. As a Patriots fan, the number one thing said to me on Sundays is “Well, your team cheats.” Those people are not way off. The fact that the Patriots are still six-time Super Bowl Champions fuels that fire on a yearly basis.
The Houston Astros have been using an intricate sign-stealing system for at least the last few years. Those years include their two recent World Series appearances. That fact has been well-documented, but if you need a refresher here’s a perfect summarization by Foolish Baseball:
Good? Good. Now let’s talk about that 2017 World Series title.
The Los Angeles City Council recently asked Major League Baseball to award the 2017 and 2018 World Series titles to the Dodgers.
So the Astros have been heavily fined, stripped of draft picks and are going to be subjected to the managerial stylings of Dusty Baker. That’s a slap on the wrist as far as I’m concerned. The real punishment is going to come at the hands of the league in 2020.
Here’s an easy bet to make ahead of the MLB season. The 2008 Cleveland Indians hold the record for being hit by the most pitches in a season with 103 beanballs. The Houston Astros are going to smash that and it’s not going to be close.
The rest of the league is pissed for a multitude of reasons. First off, you cheated, and you cheated a lot. And not only did you continue to cheat and win a world series, you acted like earned it. That’s not how that works.
However, there are players out there who have been irreparably hurt by the Astros scandal. This list includes big name players like Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish. It also effected some unknown players like Mike Bolsinger, who gave up four earned runs in 0.1 innings against the Astros, and then never pitched in the majors again.
Let’s get back to the matter at hand: vacating the 2017 World Series title.
I want the Houston Astros to wear that championship. I want the Astros to remember that they cheated the fans, the players and the other 29 MLB organizations. My main question is for what? For a ring? For the glory?
The Astros knew what was happening. They knew this was going to happen. This was the goal. Taking it away from them does one thing: it allows them to forget. As a fan of the game, I want the Astros to remember the season long lie they told everyone. I want them to remember the cheers of the fans they hoodwinked, and I want them to be branded with the mark of an organization that cheated. I want them to feel what it’s like to be branded the villian.
Penn State feels that.
The New Englad Patriots feel that.
And vacating the 2017 World Series title from Houston excuses them from that.
Houston knew what they were doing was wrong. Do not let them forget it.
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