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As Players Roast Astros, There’s One Thing We Have Yet to Hear

Players around the league continue to tear down the Houston Astros for their sign-stealing scheme.

Jose Altuve by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

As Players Roast Astros, There’s One Thing We Have Yet to Hear

Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

The Astros cheating scandal is dominating headlines around baseball, and rightfully so. Not since the steroid era a has rules violation rocked the game to its core. And with each passing day, with every soundbite and interview clip, the members of the Houston Astros take a beating in the media. They deserve every ounce of scrutiny they receive. No question about it.

And that scrutiny isn’t stopping any time soon.

Trout. Bellinger. Bauer. Markakis. Judge. Day after day, it seems another player is weighing in, lamenting the transgressions of his peers and scolding them for cutting corners. At first glance, it seems natural if nothing else. Who could expect any other type of response? Especially from guys who feel like they were robbed of a title, or lost their job because of the Astros’ antics.

But that’s looking at things in a vacuum. Team A cheats, and Teams B through Z don’t like it. It assumes all those but the cheaters have nothing to do with the rule-breaking. But that is an assumption we might not be able to make.

The Astros ran one the most intricate sign-stealing systems the game had ever seen. And while the buck ultimately stops with them, one can reasonably ask the following two questions: Why did they feel they could do it? And how did the scheme stay hidden from the public eye for years? Both questions have the same, simple answer.

The culture of the game allowed it.

What happens in the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse… Sign-stealing is part of the game, as old as the sport itself…. Everyone’s doing it...

How often have you heard these notions tossed around? They represent a mindset that was created over time by teams and by players. A single group of players cheated, yes. But it takes a whole league full of players to create a culture that allows such things to occur. For all the scolding of the Astros we have heard from players on other teams, there’s one thing we haven’t really heard. Have any of them come out and said that the culture around the league needs to change? That they themselves can do better, and make a change too?

To put it another way, it’s kind of hard to listen to players complain about the Astros day after day, when they are all a part of the same baseball culture that can hide the scandal from us for years. And for all those that have spoken out against the Astros, I can’t help but wonder. Have they ever turned a blind eye to a teammate who cheated? Who used banned substances? Who doctored a ball? Or stole signs?

If the answer to that question is yes, then things seem somewhat hypocritical. Now consider this: Commissioner Rob Manfred has just come out with a statement claiming the league is working on a plan to protect Mike Fiers from retaliation this season. For those who don’t know, Fiers is a former Astros pitcher who went on the record and broke this cheating scandal wide open a few months back. And as Manfred said, the league is concerned for his safety, particularly when Fiers and the Athletics play in Houston (of course).

And why is Fiers potentially in trouble? Because those who don’t support his choice to blow the whistle view him as a snitch. That he double-crossed his old teammates. That he violated unwritten rules. It’s the uglier side of the same culture that underlies the scandal Fiers brought to our attention in the first place.

Think about that. Around the league, we simultaneously are seeing criticism of both the actions of the cheaters and the way they were exposed. The hypocrisy is staring us all in the face. And yet no player has acknowledged it. The passive approval of “small cheats”- sign stealing, doctoring a ball- will only lead players to push the limits. The deference to “clubhouse rules” will only protect the cheaters. You can’t criticize cheaters while also keeping in place the cultural structure that enables rule-breaking.

So as they continue to rip on Houston, one has to wonder: will any players step up and admit that the culture around the game needs to change? Or will they continue to simply blame the wrongdoers for their wrongdoing, and implicitly hide the fact that all the same pieces are there for something like this to happen again.

Ryan Kelly lives in Cambridge, MA, a stone's throw away from his beloved Boston teams. When he is not working as an editorial assistant, he is providing commentary on the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins for The Turf.

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