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Opinion: MLB sets bad example for future players by tolerating cheating

Major League Baseball has set a negative precedent for college players interested in the league

Alex Bregman – Astros

Houston's Alex Bregman, right, is greeted by pitcher Brad Peacock as he crosses the plate, scoring the Astros' second home run, right after Brian McCann homered during the second inning against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Monday, July 24, 2017, in Philadelphia.

The Houston Astros cheating scandal of 2017 has left a permanent mark on Major League Baseball and its relationship with professional players and fans.

During the 2017 season — which ended with Houston winning the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers — the Astros used a camera mounted in center field to capture opposing catchers' signs during home games, effectively cheating.

It has been three weeks since MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred released his report on the investigation of technology-aided sign-stealing. Only four people are out of a job because of their roles in the scandal, and there has yet to be any discipline of active players who participated in the scheme. 

Whenever professional sports players are caught cheating, it casts a strong, negative influence on young players, such as those on the ASU baseball team. 

Ian Cohen, a freshman at majoring in sports business and a volunteer student manager for the ASU baseball team, said that "these (Astros) players were looked up to by lots of college ballplayers, and now they're just a bad influence."

Because of the shadow they've cast on baseball, Cohen also believes that players involved in the scheme should be punished.

"We're on a college team and I don't think (other teams) are doing anything to cheat, but as a Yankees fan, I feel screwed over," said Cohen. "I'm gonna keep loving baseball, but I don't know how they can just slap the team on the wrist and move on."

Catchers give hand signals to the pitchers to signify which pitch they'll throw. Each team has different signals for different pitches, and the Astros took advantage of this through their instant replay room. 

The feed from the camera went to a monitor in the team's video replay review room. A player would relay the information from the feed to another player in the dugout, who would rhythmically bang on a trash can to signal to the hitter at the plate which type of pitch was coming next.

Cheating players being allowed to continue their careers without consequence presents a significant problem for the MLB and aspiring players. 

Similar to an aspiring politician being reluctant to run in today's toxic political climate, talented college baseball players may be hesitant to continue their careers, only to play in a league where players get away with orchestrating baseball's biggest conspiracy of the modern era.

Although former ASU player and 2017 Astros hitting coach Dave Hudgens was spared from mention in the commissioner's report, he almost certainly knew what was going on. If Astros players could hear banging on a trash can from their dugout in order to deduce what pitch was coming, a coach in the dugout such as Hudgens probably heard it too. 

The State Press reached out to the email listed on Hudgens' LinkedIn account but did not receive a response by deadline. 

When cheating affects others' livelihoods, whether that of pitchers making their big breaks in the majors or that of young ballplayers who view the cheaters as former role models, it's only morally just that everyone involved receives punishment.

However, Don Gibson, a professor at ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, believes that the punishments already doled out to the team's management were sufficient. 

"If players had to squeal on each other, I don’t know that that’s good for the game," said Gibson. "I think the bigger concern is: 'Will it force players to make decisions that force them to become martyrs for the scandal?'"

Gibson, a former attorney for the MLB Commissioner's Office who currently teaches courses in sports law and business, said, "The bigger scandal was the public relations fallout and the questions about the integrity of the game." 

"It was dealt with harshly," said Gibson. "I think there’s going to be much more vigilance in terms of making sure these actions don’t occur in the future."

In terms of the impact on younger baseball players with professional playing aspirations, Gibson says that "the message is that there’s a line that you just don’t cross." 

"The younger players at the high school and college level will understand that this is not acceptable behavior," said Gibson. "If anything It will facilitate and promote better behavior among players at all levels."

MLB certainly has motivation for not disciplining players. Popular charismatic players bring in a sizable amount of money for the league every year through ticket sales, merchandise and television ratings. 

In addition, attempting to discipline players en masse could create yet another standoff between MLB and the MLBPA, its powerful players union.

However, that doesn't make it right to let the key players in one of baseball's largest scandals of all time get away with the harm they caused the game and the younger players they let down. 

MLB owes its players and its fans — which includes current and former members of the ASU baseball team — disciplinary action against current and former Astros players who cheated.

Reach the columnist at or follow @brockdoemel on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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