It has been quite a week in Major League Baseball. The cheating scandal took down one general manager and three managers. Franchises are tarnished. Houston got hit hard and Boston could be next.
But the players involved were not fined or suspended, and none got fired. I'm OK with that.
It would be hard to know exactly which players took part and how often. Cheating once is too much, but were I handing out the discipline I would not treat every player equally. In a sense, all the players on the Astros team in 2017 share in the guilt.
The transgressions have been characterized as player-driven, yet officials have taken no disciplinary action against players. Something seems not consistent with that decision, but some players may have been granted immunity to help the investigators.
In his report on the Houston cheating, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred wrote this about the players involved:
"I will not assess discipline against individual Astros players. I made the decision in September 2017 that I would hold a Club's General Manager and Field Manager accountable for misconduct of this kind, and I will not depart from that decision. Assessing discipline of players for this type of conduct is both difficult and impractical. It is difficult because virtually all of the Astros' players had some involvement or knowledge of the scheme, and I am not in a position based on the investigative record to determine with any degree of certainty every player who should be held accountable, or their relative degree of culpability. It is impractical given the large number of players involved, and the fact that many of those players now play for other Clubs.
But more importantly, the Club's General Manager and Field Manager are responsible for ensuring that the players both understand the rules and adhere to them. Our office issues a substantial number of detailed rules and procedures to Clubs - many of which, including the sign stealing rules, are not sent directly to players. It is the obligation of the Club, and, in this case, the General Manager and Field Manager, to educate and instruct their players on the rules governing play on the field. Here, because the Club's Bench Coach was an active participant in the scheme, and the Club's Manager was aware of the scheme and did nothing to stop it, I recognize that some players may have understood that their conduct was not only condoned by the Club, but encouraged by it. This was misconduct committed by the team, and with the exception of the individuals whom I will hold personally accountable, my disciplinary action will be directed at the team."
The players didn't get off completely untarnished here, in my opinion. They'll face a fan backlash and hear boos around the game, very likely. Their previous stats and accomplishments may be questioned forever. How much did they actually benefit on the stat sheet?
The entire clubhouse full of players will probably be looked at differently forever. It's going to be interesting to see if Houston - a winner of 311 games, three division titles and one World Series the past three seasons - can continue to win this coming season or if the impact of this scandal cuts into their win-loss record.
Will there be any hard feelings among the players? Some may have done nothing wrong, but they're all painted with a similar brush now. Will that cause any internal turmoil or resentment? There are probably ramifications of all this we haven't even thought about yet.