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Why MLB Turns a Blind Eye Towards Cheating

World Series Logo at Dodger Stadium

We all know MLB teams cheat. It’s not really news at this point. The fact that the Astros stole signs using a camera live-feed throughout their winning 2017 season barely came as a surprise to most fans of the game. In truth, cheating has been going on since the MLB first began. While players probably aren’t using PEDs to the extent they were in the 80s, and match-fixing (probably) isn’t as common as it was during the Babe Ruth era, it’s clear that teams are still blatantly cheating in the MLB.

The question is: why? Or more importantly – why hasn’t it been stopped?

Let’s take the recent electronic sign stealing as an example, because it’s in the news at the moment. In 2017, the Red Sox were caught doing a similar sort of thing to what the Astros did – stealing signs and relaying this information back to the dugout with an Apple Watch.

After the Astros were found out, the MLB stated that it received a number of complaints about teams using technology to steal signs during the 2017 season. If this was the case, why did it take an ex-Astros pitcher to come out and snitch on them for the team to be held accountable? Why wasn’t this investigated properly after the complaints were initially made?

Only now, once the media got hold of the story, does the MLB investigate the Astros’ behavior during the 2017 season. This is despite how obvious the banging noise before change-ups is to anyone watching Astros home game replays from two years ago.

And do you know what the best part is?

It’s very unlikely that the Astros will face any significant punishment.

For the same crime, the Red Sox were issued a small fine – no points deductions, no draft picks given up – no nothing. We can say with almost 100% certainty that the Astros will get to keep their dirty World Series title.

So why has the MLB turned a blind eye to cheating?

The MLB wants teams to cheat

We’re not saying that the MLB is telling teams to cheat. But they’re not doing much to stop it.

There’s good reason for this.

It’s in their best interests for there to be cheating in the Major League. At the moment, the MLB needs to do whatever’s necessary to keep the masses watching baseball. And what better way to keep the sport in the media than a good old fashioned cheating scandal?

Whether you believe in the juiced ball theory or not, it’s clear that the MLB is panicking about declining viewership. The 2019 World Series was the third least-viewed edition of all time – only 2008 and 2012 were lower.

More media coverage means more free press for baseball. And that’s just what the game needs right now. The problem with this strategy is it’s incredibly risky. If fans lose faith that teams play fair, viewership will decline further still. And obviously, it’s not fair to lifelong fans, nor players. Teams that cheat have a clear advantage. It’s not an even playing field, because not every team is cheating.

This is why Mike Fiers decided to speak out against the Astros. After he left Houston for the Tigers, he found that most youth pitchers at his new team weren’t aware that sign stealing was so common.

“We had a lot of young guys with Detroit trying to make a name and establish themselves. I wanted to help them out and say, ‘Hey, this stuff really does go on. Just be prepared.'”

How can we fix this?

The MLB has had cheaters for as long as baseball has been played in the USA. But viewership hasn’t always been so low. Therefore, this isn’t the whole story. To eliminate cheating in the MLB, we need to take a good look at the people that run the league and how the Major League operates.

Clearly, there aren’t yet the appropriate processes in place to ensure that the game is played fairly. Ideally, it would be great to see a dedicated cheating watchdog set up – one with real power to take proactive measures against teams that break the rules. However, it’s pretty unlikely that anything like this is going to happen any time soon.

What we can do as MLB fans is keep an eye out for obvious cheating. Only when fans, coaches, or players bring cheating to light is the MLB forced to step in. For now though, all we do is wait and hope that the Dodgers play on a level playing field. Whether it be by cheating themselves, or because other teams do the honorable thing, and play baseball as it’s supposed to be played.

With thanks to

Scott Andes

Scott Andes: Longtime writer and Dodger fanatic

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Scott Andes
Scott Andes: Longtime writer and Dodger fanatic

11 thoughts on “Why MLB Turns a Blind Eye Towards Cheating

  1. It is going to be very hard for Manfred to turn a blind eye this time. The media and the fans are watching closely to see how the Stros are going to be disciplined. That being said, it will probably come down to a hefty fine, simply because the case is so public. There will no doubt be some more discussions at the next executive meetings also. So only time will tell how this gets handled. I honestly believe, if they really want to clean this up, there should be some sort of Death penalty. Like the NCAA does when they find malfeasance in a football or basketball program. Take away their win. Just vacate it. Take the trophy back, and declare no winner. The Dodgers would not want the tainted title, so just vacate.

    1. You mean like they vacated Bonds’ records?

      I agree they need to come down hard to send the message to everyone – don’t do this again. A fine isn’t enough because there’s so much money in the game Houston could pay it and not miss a beat. People at the top need to be suspended. Players won’t be of course, but all those in management that participated – at least a year suspension.

      1. Bonds records are still on the books. I mean take the title away like the NCAA did with USC over the Reggie Bush thing. Take their rings, the pennant and the trophy. And you are right about suspending the people who perpetrated the act. Exec’s. staff, who ever.

        1. I was of course being sarcastic about Bonds. And just like how MLB responded to him with nothing, the Astros record and title will not be sacrificed in the name of justice. The title will remain theirs, the individual players who all participated in the scandal will be ignored, any and all records by these cheating players will remain on the books and we move forward. There may not even be suspensions, but there should be.

          This is a classic case of the fox and the henhouse. MLB is investigating itself. They know they have to do something and you can bet it will be as little as they can get away with.

  2. You said baseball World Series was watched by less people this yr. it makes since. We can’t even watch the Dodgers ,,so who care about the World Series

  3. I see this differently than with performance enhancement drugs. Athletes should be rewarded based on their natural athletic performance and skills.

    Rules concerning how to play the game are different.

    I think you can make the rules the same for every team without hurting the integrity of the game. Stealing signs are like travelling in the NBA. They did raise the height of the mound, for example.
    If you allow everyone to take 3 steps instead of 2 most of the time, then change the rule to 3 steps.

    If there is a rule against stealing signs, but many are breaking them, then the rule should be abolished and every team should be allowed to steal signs in whatever way they want.

    This will up the scoring a lot and force pitchers and catchers to be a lot smarter (and likely will give a lot more power to pitcher in calling a game – which is not a bad thing as pitchers need to be smarter about their pitches). Will lead to more passed balls, that is for sure. And the framing would stop. Or not – each team can choose what they want behind the plate, a catcher who catches or a catcher who calls pitches. In fact there may be a premium in keeping certain pitchers and catchers together, if there are not going to be any signs called.

    1. Yueh, stealing signs has been part of the game for years. But, this is different. They used an electronic device, a camera, strategically placed to steal the catchers signs. That is definitely not right. They then relayed what was coming to the hitters using different methods. Banging on the trash can for an off speed pitch for one. Pitchers and catchers automatically change the signs when a runner gets on second and can actually see what the catcher is putting down. But doing it electronically, having a monitor set up in the runway between the dugout and the clubhouse? That is against any fair play rules, and if the investigation, which is based on some eye witnesses and other testimony, finds the Stros guilty, they should be penalized heavily.

  4. I understand that Michael – they went to the extreme. But let every team do that and see what happens.

    Trying to restrict use of electronics is just futile. The teams will be using drones, infrared, satellite imaging, etc. I’m actual surprised no one has thought of the dog whistle angle.

    1. I get that. But there has to be some sort of control and fairness about the game, or the fans are going to stop watching and going. Basketball is ridiculous with some of the fouls called. Football has more or less tried to protect the high priced QB’s. If you can steal signs without the aid of electronics, more power to you. But it brings into question whether Darvish was actually tipping his pitches, or the Stros were just flat out cheating. They have worked hard to get rid of PED’s. They should do the same with electronic devices. And believe me, they can stop it. How about league appointed monitors, as in real people in the dugout and clubhouse? The league can inspect the CF area and look for camera’s that do not belong. And sorry my friend, but a drone flying around the ball park is just a little bit obvious. They need to own a satellite to get any kind of imaging. Peraza non tendered by the Reds, Culberson the same by the Braves, Padres get Profar from the A’s, Leon goes to the Tribe, and Moustakis signs a 4 year deal with the Reds.

      1. Michael

        Here, Here, on the cheating. Something dramatic has got to be done. When the Black Sox were found out, the players were banned for life and so far nothing has changed in that regard. Heck, Pete Rose cannot get into the HOF because of gambling and the Stros get off. That dog won’t hunt.
        Meanwhile some teams are getting it done while others like the Dodgers do nothing this off season.

        1. Patience pack. The Dodgers have less to do. The other teams are chasing us.

          You know what would suck? If Rendon and Strasburg stay in Washington. Split that up.

          Stealing signs has been around forever. Like Bear says this is different. This is the lazy man’s way of stealing signs. Like steroids, everybody knows this is wrong, but, so what? What rules were broken? What language is used by MLB to define this and what punishment is prescribed for those caught? I don’t know of course but my guess is – nothing.

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