MLB Drops The Hammer On The Houston Astros, And Jim Crane Lowers The Boom

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Wow.

I'm just seeing this news at about 4 PM CST and had no intention of writing about it. I had been slowly picking away at a follow-up piece taking a loving look at our pitching staff heading into 2020, but this is big news. It's also something I care deeply about, so I have no reservations putting the evening plans and the chicken and scalloped potatoes dinner on hold.

Just to recap, the Houston Astros have been accused of cheating by using electronic surveillance during the 2017 regular season, through the 2017 postseason which saw them capture a World Championship, and into the 2018 regular season. MLB began an investigation into these allegations following statements from former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, and on Monday issued statements and announced disciplinary measures.

MLB suspended Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, Manager AJ Hinch, and former Assistant GM Brandon Taubman for one year, through the conclusion of the 2020 World Series. MLB stripped the Astros of their #1 and #2 picks in both the 2020 and 2021 drafts, as well as fining the organization $5M, the maximum allowed under the Major League Baseball Constitution.

Luhnow, Hinch, and Taubman are also hit with a "probation" of sorts, as they would be placed on MLB's permanently ineligible list (a lifetime ban) if they were to "engage in any future material violations".

You can read the entire statement from Commissioner Manfred here. It is lengthy and thoroughly detailed.

Per this statement, disciplinary action was reserved to the GM and field manager of any offending team. This investigation seems to point to a player-driven cheating scheme in Houston, with former Astros bench coach and current Red Sox manager Alex Cora the only non-player explicitly implicated. The Red Sox are currently being investigated in their own sign-stealing scandal, and Cora's punishment will be announced following the conclusion of that inquiry. From Manfred's statement:

"Cora arranged for a video room technician to install a monitor displaying the center field camera feed immediately outside of the Astros’ dugout. (The center field camera was primarily used for player development purposes and was allowed under MLB rules at the time when used for that purpose.) Witnesses have provided largely consistent accounts of how the monitor was utilized. One or more players watched the live feed of the center field camera on the monitor, and after decoding the sign, a player would bang a nearby trash can with a bat to communicate the upcoming pitch type to the batter.

Players occasionally also used a massage gun to bang the trash can. Generally, one or two bangs corresponded to certain off-speed pitches, while no bang corresponded to a fastball. Witnesses consistently describe this new scheme as player-driven, and with the exception of Cora, non-player staff, including individuals in the video replay review room, had no involvement in the banging scheme.”

Reaction was swift and passionate throughout the baseball world, as some fans were displeased with the severity of the punishment, while others found it lacking in relation to the offense. Many brought up the saga of Pete Rose and tried to compare the two competitive crimes, and fans throughout the spectrum called for a forfeiture of the 2017 title. Then things really got interesting...

Astros owner Jim Crane, whom Commissioner Manfred described  as being unaware of the nefarious competitive advantages and completely cooperative in the investigation, fired both Luhnow and Hinch. It was a move that was both swift and decisive. It was bold, and it was welcome. Manfred said of Crane:

"At the outset, I also can say our investigation revealed absolutely no evidence that Jim Crane, the owner of the Astros, was aware of any of the conduct described in this report. Crane is extraordinarily troubled and upset by the conduct of members of his organization, fully supported my investigation, and provided unfettered access to any and all information requested."

I'm not a gambling man, but if I was, I'd put money on Hinch and Cora never working in MLB again. Taubman as well, but he also has other issues. Luhnow may, because I really don't think he was heavily involved. He knew, but let the product on the field run their own show.

There are a thousand twists and turns to this story, and details abound throughout the interwebs. I was somewhat overloaded doing some simple research, as I kept finding myself getting sucked deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. This is a horrible story of potentially sport-altering consequence, and should be treated as such. For all the jokes that can be made of beating on a garbage can, this scandal and it's inevitable offspring can pose existential threats to the game itself.

I hate cheating in any aspect of life, as it takes away an equal opportunity from another individual or entity. I especially hate cheating in baseball, because it upsets a delicate balance involving the thinnest of margins. Baseball is famously described as a game of inches. I'd be so bold as to include a few IQ points as well. Unlike other major sports, baseball is rarely a competition between physical specimens. Sure, tools matter, but baseball has always been more chess than checkers. I think, for these reasons, baseball is more susceptible to subtle manipulations that can drastically alter that delicate balance.

Sign-stealing has always been a fixture in baseball, and always will be. I have no problem with that, as long as it is confined to the players and their abilities on the field of play. Hell, that's why they have signs to begin with.

I'll never forget Javy, while playing SS in Colorado on April 22, 2018, noticing that D.J. LeMehieu was stealing signs while on 2B with Arenado at bat. Javy stood in front of D.J. to prevent the transfer of information, and let out his frustration and enthusiasm when Arenado was retired, yelling to his outfielders "see what happens when they don't know what pitch is coming? ". LeMahieu and Javy nearly came to blows (though tensions were already high after KB was hit in the head and Chili Davis and Andy Haines were ejected in the 1st inning), but order was restored following a brief delay. These things happen, they always have, but outside influences cannot be allowed to creep into the equation.

Technology can be a great tool in so many ways. It can give us a better understanding of biomechanics, help to prevent and treat injuries, and speed the development of young players through better training and nutrition. It can also destroy the game by giving that ever-so-slight advantage if used improperly.

I remember the birth of anabolic steroids in baseball. I recall watching with a mixture of intrigue and unease as Jose Canseco became the first player in history to post a 40/40 season. I remember he and his fellow "bash brother" Mark McGwire thumping their Popeye-inspired forearms together after another "routine" 500-foot bomb. I just thought "steroids", and never imagined how it would completely take over and make a mockery of the game.

Technology is here and can be a wonderful thing. It's also going to present it's own set of problems. PED's really are a slippery slope. I see too many fans seeing supplements as black and white, as if there are only Flintstones vitamins and anabolic steroids. No. It's all a huge glob of grey area in the middle, and everybody does something. Everybody.

While the pharmaceutical engineers and enhancement police continue their game of cat-and-mouse, we should learn something. Technology isn't a debate about chemical compounds and restorative powers. It is pretty black and white. You cannot use cameras, or microphones, or Banana watches, or anything else to cheat what is happening on the field. Period, end of story. If you are caught, you will be severely punished.

Unfortunately, I see this devolving into a cat-and-mouse game, and I'm scared of what is about to happen next.

 

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  • Yesterday I was speaking with my long time friend and baseball fan Just after the story had broken. The crawl on the screen went from ‘Stro’s manager and GM changed from “suspended” to “fired”. Crane appears to be a honorable owner doing the right thing even when not forced to. Bravo!

    High tech has the capability of corrupting the integrity of the game. BP, you are correct stealing signs has been around for ages, but you used to have to get to second to be able to pull it off. Durocher used to tell a great story of Willie Mays being able to figure out the opposing team’s signs after TWO pitches.

    One thing for sure, this story will continue to develop. Cora would be wise to throw himself upon the mercy of the court of public opinion.

  • Red Sox, you're on deck.

    Astros can now look forward to getting the Barry Bonds Treatment, i.e. lots of asterisks in the stands. Enjoy!!

    We get to continue to bask in the glow of our 2016 title, won fair and square.

  • Baseball players need to police themselves. It will be extremely difficult to catch those using PEDs or electronically stealing signs. Where did honor and sportsmanship go? Baseball will always mirror society.

  • There is something bigger. Today on CNN Bob Costas said Manfred had identified 8 other teams, we have identified two here, Milwaukee with their whistles and Colorado with the incident at 2B.

    All the angst over losing by a game or two to get in the playoffs or losing in the playoffs goes out the window when cheating is this large.

  • As I read though this, I am sad, for the game I love so much. Baseball is a big part of my life and has been for a long time. But as a fan.

    What the Astros and Sox did, although wrong, neither of those WS, had any effect on my life or job personally over those 2 seasons. I didn't even watch most of either of those world series.

    I've read, it's just a game what are people so upset about.

    Then I look at Darvish. Whose life was effected by this event.

  • I saw a comment from an Astro fan saying how hard this is going to be to explain to his 7yr old son and how it was going to effect his own fandom. Truly sad perspective on this mess... At 1st I thought about, what if it was the cubs. Then I remembered that in 2016 we had Joe Maddon leading our team. Say what you want for his in game decisions and lineups, I believe his strongest attribute is integrity.

  • It is sad. We want to think of professional athletes, especially the best, as role models. But the truth is that many of them are fighting for their jobs, or more wins, or to make the all-star team, and will do pretty much anything to achieve that objective. These are ruthless people who see ethics as a hurdle that needs to be jumped, to get an edge on the other guy.

    I don't agree about Hinch or Luhnow not coming back in baseball. They will both be hired again some day. ESPN will probaby do a puff piece on Hinch, how contrite he is over this whole issue, and how "he's really just a nice guy and a good manager, too!" I believe in giving people second chances, so it doesn't bother me too much, just that somehow these two guys will be portrayed more as victim than perpetrator.

    But baseball is chock full of people just like Alex Cora, Hinch, Luhnow. Heck, many probably secretly admire what they did. Don't fool yourself. They will be back. People like them seem to never go away.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    And I should add that is total B.S. that the players involved are not equally punished. They are not crooks, but pretty border-line in my thinking.. They are adults, and also professionals. Conniving thieves are not well liked, nor wanted around, in general.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Agreed, where is the player discipline? Is MLB that afraid of the union? Based on current reports, the players were central to this scheme. This is worse than anything Pete Rose did, it directly impacted game outcomes.

  • In reply to All W Days:

    There is no way Beltran should be allowed to be manager of the Mets.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    Don’t forget, it was the Astros that hacked the Cardinals database a couple of years ago.

  • In reply to All W Days:

    other way around...

  • In reply to Varmit County:

    Yep, sorry about that.

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    I wish that the WS win was voided and even the Boston win too. Make it hurt. Besides taking the draft picks away, also take their international money away for 2 years too.
    I was going to make a comment about sense of responsibility and fair play but I don't want to extend this beyond baseball, but that counts in baseball too. I love numbers, and baseball is the most dependent sport in the world where numbers are compared and that's why the roids users have thrown everything out of wack. Betting and cheating too. When someone drops a flyable I want to believe he dropped it because he made an error, not because he was paid to do so.
    MLB has to try and regain this wonderful game of ours and have players and teams be penalized. Actually, what about the player (s) who banged the garbage can--they should be suspended too.

  • I like the fact that MLB took away both the first and second round picks for two years. That, more than suspensions and a fine, will really cause ownership to think twice before cheating.

  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, a former brilliant engineer, was an awesome judge of talent when he was with the Cards and then the Astros. I would rank him close to the top as a GM. It's a shame that he chose to compromise his integrity and cheat to make sure he won a championship.

  • A differing point to make on this cheating scandal is it really is just an evolution of advanced analytics that is now common. The analytics of today are really just “stats on steroids” so the use of further technology to supposedly steal pitch signals one would almost expect had to happen.....
    I don’t condone cheating but isn’t sign stealing “legal” cheating? Some are saying this is worse than what Rose did. No, it isn’t. Even if hitters know a fastball is coming well, you still have to hit it or be able to. On top of all this is the claim that they stopped doing it this past year with the players saying it made little difference to them and basically got bored with it.
    The Yankees and Dodgers are not coming out publicly saying this is what cost them the title, if they do, I would consider their arguments valid but since they aren’t they also are saying this isn’t that big a deal.....
    The punishment is fair and justified if for anything to stop the electronic use to gain advantage. That they should never had done. But you will soon see electronics deciding the strike zone.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    It's not asking too much to keep technology out of the dugouts, bullpens, and clubhouses. Very easy fix. Stealing signs as a runner on second is fair game. It's also fair game to put one in that player's back next time he's up.

  • In reply to DarBar15:

    Disagree with your last statement. Just because one steals your sign or picks up your 3b coaches sign doesn’t warrant being hit in the back. Do a better job of hiding signs.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    I'm fine with K Zone or whatever it's called. The technology obviously exists. And as a fan the good and the bad for your Hometown 9 will balance out. The frustration of watching an 0-2 count that should have been 1-1 or 2-0 won't be missed. Especially in key AB's that could change a game.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    I don't know that blaming technology on this scandal is really correct. It is partly to blame, in the sense that technology was used. But these players, and anyone else in the know, fully realized they were crossing a line, and just didn't give a damn about that. If any of these cheaters have actually said they were "bored with it" or it didn't really help that much, then why were they doing it in the first place? Because it does help, and they are lying to protect their own back sides.
    You may be right Wickdipper, in that maybe this is a little over reaction going on here. Maybe, but IMHO the likes of ESPN and MLB Network will be taking the exact same tach as you on this. These organizations are solely bottom-line groups, so that makes me want to resist this idea. I've read stuff on the ESPN web site already along the lines of "Isn't everybody else doing this, too?" I seriously doubt that, but that will be thrown out to provide cover for these people, and to lessen the tarnish they brought on the game.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    I don't believe most players when they say, that it doesn't make any difference if they know what pitch is coming. It's a huge advantage. All batters hit with more authority with that knowledge.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    It's why pitchers who are tipping their pitches get lit up.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    That was the claim with Darvish, that he was tipping his pitches.
    Now I'm not so sure...

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Come on, man. You're saying it doesn't matter if a hitter KNOWS that fastball is coming his way? You hear hitters say it all the time, usually after a game winning whatever, "I was looking fastball and got a pitch to hit..." So when a professional hitter knows beforehand and doesn't even have to identify the pitch out of the hand, it's a huge advantage.

    Both Darvish and Kershaw were lit up. I think the knowledge of whats coming is even more important against dominant pitchers like these two guys that with a wicked arsenal of pitches.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Far worse than what Rose did...Rose bet on his own team, nothing he did changed the result of the game as he always was coaching to win.

    This sign stealing changed the results of the game. Period. This is closer to the 1919 Black Sox.

    Further, teams received a notice from MLB in September 2017 stating that reports had been this was occurring, it is illegal and must stop. If you think that continuing such behaviour is fine generally and still fine after that warning, you are stating that no rules are binding.

  • In reply to springs:

    Sorry springs, I not buying it on Rose. I think that he did bet against his team. If he didn't, Pete was the worst manager in the history of the game. I watched him leave pitchers long past the point that they had enough left to get anybody out. He would visit the mound pat his starter on the butt and go back to the dugout and watch them cough up the game. Betting for or against your team 'is' absolutely as bad if not worse.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    No way is it worse!!!!! Betting might cross the line of being unethical but it isn’t in the same class as cheating or doing steroids. Not even close.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    It is cheating if he manages so his team will lose.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    If he bet on baseball as a manager that would have nothing to do with numbers he put up as a hitter.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    True.

  • Ever since the 2017 season, baseball's have been flying out of the park for multiple teams. Offense has exploded. Are all these teams cheating? Is Houston & Red Sox the start of this type of sign stealing? Did it start sooner? Is it the reason for all this elite talent the past few years? Lot's of unanswered questions.

  • It doesn't surprise me more teams will be implicated. Players talk to each other. Not to mention once they know other teams are doing it and getting away with it they're at a competitive and ultimately financial disadvantage. Very easy to understand why some would want to even the playing field. When in Rome as they say.

    On an unrelated note it'll be interesting to see if MLB rolls out the "super ball" again for the regular season. I for one hope not. Watching guys put the ball in play with action on the base paths is a lot more entertaining in my world.

  • There has always been, and will always be, 'gamesmanship' in sports. Baseball being no exception to that rule. However, this sort of systematic exploitation of technology is wrong, unfair, and I think the punishments are justified. Kudos!

    But yeah,... It'll be interesting seeing how far this issue runs, and what happens to the Red Sox in particular.

  • I'm tired of hearing how "sad" this is for the game. It's great for "the game." Cheaters were caught, exposed and punished. This is far better for the overall sport than, say the PED Era which is and will forever remain unresolved and huge stain on the game. That is sad.

    This is ugly, and painful, yes, but sad - no. I am empathetic to a fault, so I feel for Hinch, the terrible situation he was in, but ultimately I am an ethical person and proud of it. My father taught me that the most important thing is doing the right thing, know what is right and do it, no matter how hard it is in the moment. Hinch didn't stop it, he's paying his penance. Luhnow is slime bag and deserves banishment.

    The technology needs to be removed from the dugout. All of it. If players are so bored with their own game they need to scroll instagram and play games they should have to sit in the clubhouse. And the replay rules need to change. If a manager or base coach thinks a call was missed they challenge on the spot--not review it before the official review, I always hated that.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    I think the sadness people feel is that a group of people did get away with this for over a season. You can now argue that a World Series was won by a team due to unethical cheating. People are happy that it was eventually discovered and (some) parties punished. Just sad that an entire organization (probably more than one) thinks this is acceptable behavior.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    I personally believe some players from the 70's, and in the 80's PED use just grew. Steroids were banned by MLB in 1991, and they didn't test until 2003.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    Seems like an easy fix for MLB. Delay the broadcast 10 seconds. Probably even less.

  • Personally, I think every player that was proven to be involved should receive a lifetime ban. There needs to be accountability to uphold the integrity of the game. This is was the same stance I took as the Cubs fired Chili Davis and took the player's side. They entitled the players to not improve. Now all the cheating Astros and Red Sox are being let off the hook. So what's to stop the players from doing this again, when it's their bosses (coaches and FO) who took the fall? If all the players were banned, no one ever would consider anything in that ballpark of cheating and using technology to steal signs; plain and simple. I'm sure every MLB player values his job much more than the idea of cheating.

    Reparations should be owed from the Astros and Red Sox to any team they traded one of the cheating players to, as the innocent teams gave up players true to their statistics, while the Astros and Red Sox did not. That wasn't lost on me that Tony Kemp had an OPS 130 points higher with the Astros than the Cubs. Did the Cubs really get what they paid for in that trade?

    Yu Darvish should take huge exception and file a grievance against the league and all the Astros involved. He got ruined from his 2017 World Series performance, which the integrity of the game was proven to be compromised. How many millions did he leave on the table because of that? Sadly enough, how much has his mental strength been questioned since then...

    Also, anyone who bet on the outcome of the 2017 World Series really should be in fits about this. It went 7 games and is clear now that the Astros needed to cheat to win that series....

    I have zero respect for all of the players involved. If I ever see them play in person, they will not hear nice words from me.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    From everything I've read, Alex Cora was the mastermind. I'm really holding out hope that he does receive a lifetime ban. Further, as BP mentioned, I do hope both AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow get blackballed from the league.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    I bet ESPN hires Alex Cora.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Stealing a sign unethically is worse then cheating by steroids?????? Lifetime ban for one but 60 games for other? Steroids is bigger cheating in my eyes.

  • The Red Sox just fired Cora, saying in a statement it was over the Commissioner's report of the activities with the Astros. The probe into the Red Sox sign-stealing is ongoing.

    Cora seems to be at the center of all this, and I expect severe punishment, possibly a lifetime ban.

  • OT, but potentially huge news for the Cubs:

    Josh Donaldson just signed a 4-year deal with the Twins. If we are moving KB, this is some of the best news we could get. This opens up a bidding war between ATL and PHI, which probably match up with our needs better than the other trade partner possibilities.

    Stay tuned...

  • Just need to get the KB grievance decided and we can then get on with our moves. Donaldson was the other road block there and that has been resolved. Atlanta, Washington and LAD need 3B.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    If you ask me, I think this KB grievance is a grave misjustice against the Cubs. If I understand it correctly, the Cubs followed the rules as agreed by both parties so what is the grievance? This so-called grievance is hindering the Cubs' off season moves and the people behind this holdup should be held accountable. This is beyond ridiculous!

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    Cubs manipulated the rules to their benefit. They should still win the grievance. This one move should not hold up the Cubs off season.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Within a week, they're saying.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Hopefully it's Dodgers or Braves. They have the best prospects that we need imo. Braves have Pache, Waters, & a buttload of pitching. But everytime we've traded eith ATL we seem to get screwed. Except LaStella. Now the Dodgers have Verdugo, Gonsolin, May, etc. Lux would be nice but he's staying in LA & the Cubs are better off with multiple high end players than just Lux. If LA offered those first 3 above for a package headed by Bryant, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

  • Appropriate to the original topic, my youngest son gave me a book for Christmas entitled "The Original Curse" by Sean Deveney. It has a rather provocative question on the cover: "Did the Cubs throw the 2018 World Series to Babe Ruth's Red Sox and incite the Black Sox scandal?"

    I'm only about a quarter way into the book, but it gives a detailed history of the Cubs for 1917-1918, and makes a number of critical observations, the most important being that in that era players and gamblers intermingled quite openly. The players were poorly paid, and were also under the cloud of being drafted into WWI. Certainly ripe conditions for possible cheating.

    I'll give an update after I finish the book, but so far it is making a carefully constructed argument that the conditions for cheating were clearly present. Stay tuned....

  • In reply to wthomson:

    LOL

  • In reply to wthomson:

    I read that a few years ago wthomson. It's a great book. I'm convinced both the Cubs and Red Sox were trying to throw the 1918 World Series. The Cubs were just a little better at it. In fact, Black Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte said in court in 1920 that the idea to throw the 1919 WS came from a player on the 1918 Cubs that he knew.
    What's even more interesting is that the Cubs had an agreement with the Cardinals to trade for Rogers Hornsby, but because of the pending US involvement in the war, it was called off. The Cubs had also just traded for Grover Cleveland Alexander, who was the top pitcher of the past 5 years. He was then drafted & never really recovered from the war. The book states that without the war, the Cubs may have become what the Yankees became, the dominant team of the 20's & 30's.
    It's also really interesting reading about what our country was like in those years.
    Sorry if I gave too much away. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

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    The Cubs have signed a reliever, 27 yr old Jason Adam. He pitched for Toronto last year averaging 94.7 mph on his FB. Another arm, but a hard thrower, and we're stockpiling them.
    If KB loses his grievance then maybe Atl and Philly and maybe even Arizona have a tug of war for him.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Don't forget Washington or even LAD.

  • The KB possibilities become even larger with the Braves and Nationals loosing out on Donaldson. I can see him going to the Braves for a nice package. How about Pache, Fried and another prospect or a couple of pitching prospects instead of Fried. Also opens up the possibility of Contreras to the Rockies in the Arenado proposed deal. As much as I would would like to keep everyone I think KB is the least likely to sign an extension and so is the most likely to go.

  • In reply to PhillyCubFan:

    Moving Willson doesn't provide the needed salary relief, so his trade would have to be about improving the team only.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    How many of the players can the Cubs afford to extend? The rest of the main players will be dealt. Cubs cannot afford to lose them for draft picks when they are not expected to be a playoff team. I just cross my fingers, and hope the Cubs get a good return for all the players they end up trading.

    They won 84 games last season, and on paper are worse going into 2020. Cubs front office last off-season was at least selling internal player improvement. What is the front office even talking about this offseason? Are they even talking?

  • In reply to Naujack:

    The Cubs FO began the offseason last year admitting everything was broken, then shifted to internal improvent, status quo, and blind hope and faith for reasons I still don't understand. You are absolutely correct that there is no message this offseason.

    I yearn for the days of yore, back when ownership and upper management was brutally transparent with us fans. "We're gonna suck for many years, but it will be worth it". At least we had clarity.

    I try my best to let it go, but I can't. We have been badly mismanaged over the past several years, and more changes need to be made. We should not be in the position we currently find ourselves in.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    C'mon BP... are'nt you being a little overly dramatic? The Cubs FO admitted SOME things were broken not everything, or did I miss something.

    Are you serious in yearning for the previous ownership and upper management and another 108 years of not even reaching the NL championship game?

    One year of NOT making the playoffs indicates the team is failing nor is it a sign that the Cubs need to make any drastic changes. With just a few key moves and the Cubs could be playing in the WS again.

    CHEER UP! You may be pleasantly surprised this year. GO CUBS!

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    Not to pick on Barly, but that is my general take on all the over the top handwringing among the fan base. I think a five-year run is about right. Sure, the Cubs could try and extend it further (see SF Giants), but I believe the result would just be to make an eventual rebuild that much tougher. The Cubs five-year window has closed, they got one World Series and three NLCS. Now it's time to build a new window. Such is the cycle of sports. On the plus side, maybe after a few solid trades we can start reading Michael's minor league recaps again!

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    Exactly, with probably at least 4 players (Amaya, Hoerner, B. Davis and Marquez) or even more in the top 100 Prospects, the Cubs have their share of top prospects. If and when they trade some of their core players, they will have even more. Not a bad start for the next 5 years, and so on.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    I'm not big on drama, though I readily admit to temporary (prolonged?) spikes in passion. I certainly don't long for the return of mediocre management trying to do what they could within the constraints of disinterested ownership, but was referring to a few years ago when the Ricketts and Theo were universally praised for being transparent with the fanbase regarding their vision for the franchise.

    I understand the cycles of competitive MLB. You're not going to be great forever, I get that. I just can't bring myself to dismiss this steady and alarming decline of our franchise as a typical competitive cycle. I think it has been mismanagement.

    The writing has been on the wall for several years, with the lack of player development and the resulting reliance on free agents. It has never been a sustainable model. These weaknesses within the organization have been obvious for years, but the FO was stubborn in admitting fault. Now change has been forced upon them, through both personnel turnover and spending constraints. We shouldn't be in this position.

    We have a core of some of the best players in baseball entering their prime years, and we may have to sell them off. We are rid of the lingering financial burdens of the complex sale of the team and entering into a lucrative new TV deal yet are considering selling some of the core to reduce payroll. Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein, once media darlings for their easy access and brutal candor are now ducking appearances and dodging questions. We shouldn't be in this position.

    I'm the eternal optimist and hope we do pull a rabbit out of our hats. I see the NL Central as relatively weak and we have a chance to win it, but that is of no solace to me. In this weak division we should dominate and coast to an easy win, setting ourselves up for a long postseason run. I hope we do, but that would be much more realistic if necessary changes were made years ago when those long-term issues became obvious.

    Go Cubs!

  • In reply to 44slug:

    The salary relief, as I understand it, would come from including Heyward in the deal.

  • In reply to PhillyCubFan:

    I don't think the Cubs will get their asking price for Bryant. He is coming off 2 seasons of injuries along with other teams know the Cubs need to reduce payroll. They would be better off keeping him.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    What’s their asking price?

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    "One bourbon.
    One scotch.
    One beer."

    Oops, sorry. That's my request while trying to follow what the heck we've been doing during this period that should be the summit of our competitive window.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I think almost anything they would get in the trade would, within reason, be more valuable than the draft pick they’ll receive in two years when he hits free agency. Unless they feel they can make a legitimate WS run in the next two years a trade brings more value. If I thought he would be willing to sign an extension that would be a different story.

  • Some other breaking news:

    Cubs legend C Taylor Davis is heading to Baltimore, according to very early reports. No word yet on the specifics, or even if it is as a player or coach. I would assume a minor-league deal as some sort of hybrid.

    Couldn't happen to a better guy, although I wish he could've stayed with us. We'll always have the grand slam and the appearance on the mound.

    Good for you, Taylor. Don't forget your roots. You are always welcome back.

  • This whole cheating thing has really rankled me. I gave it a few days to let me simmer down and be more rational about this. But this whole business where the manager and d-bag GM are fired, but the players (who are the perpetrators of the scheme by most accounts) get off scot free? To tell the truth, even if they were punished it rankles very badly.

    Conniving, lying, cheating. Over and over again. I've concluded that I don't like these types of people. I don't want to root for them. I certainly don't want to spend $75 for a ticket to watch them. Don't want to buy their jerseys, nor any paraphernalia associated with MLB or any team. I think there are just too many teams, too many people associated with them and who promote them, who would do the same thing if they could get away with it.

    I'm not going to leave baseball altogether. Not going to let low life cheaters ruin the sport if I can help out. But there is too much passion for winning, too much passion by the fans. It's January, so not too late to make a New Year's resolution to boycott baseball for one year. Life is all about ebbs and flows. The older you get the more you understand that. It's time for baseball to ebb a bit for me, I think.

    I haven't really decided to do this yet.. Am I just too irrational about this whole business? Maybe I need to just chill a bit. What do you folks think? Is a one year boycott a crazy idea?

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Love of this sport and for our favorite team brings out strong emotions. I've been out of character in my dismay with the current state of our franchise, and have been gently persuaded to chillax.

    Perhaps we could both use this:

    "I blew out my flip flop.
    Stepped on a pop top.
    Cut my heel had to cruise on back home.
    But there's booze in the blender,
    And soon it will render,
    That frozen concoction that helps me hang on."

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    LOL. That's awesome, BP! I'm more of a beer guy myself, but the point is the same.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    What I find hilarious is MLB has partnerships with different sport books/casino. One of MLB pitches was they needed to be partners and/or share in the Gambling revenue. Plus have access to information, to keep the game honest, and above board! It wouldn't be a total shock to me, if sports books are sued in a class action lawsuit over MLB cheating scandal.

  • This newest cheating is too close to the roiders thing for me as well. Baseball can't stand on principle, if the participants have no principles. If the game loses its credibility, it lose so much.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I've always thought it interesting how baseball gets so much heat when cheaters are busted, yet the NFL doesn't seem to ever get any heat, and they don't even try to stop the cheating. Somewhere between 75-90% (by most estimates) of NFL players are believed to use "roids". The NFL doesn't even test for HGH, and their testing system as a whole is so weak that anyone who isn't stupid & wants to get away with it can. Bill Belichek has been caught cheating multiple times, with very little punishment, and he still has his job. Would baseball be better off, like football, to ignore the cheating and just push it under the rug?
    I read the book, Concussion, about Dr. Bennet Omalu, in 2016. It tells the story of how the NFL completely blacklisted this doctor when he discovered CTE & pointed out the dangers of playing the game of football. I have not watched an NFL game, other than my favorite team, since then. Unfortunately, I can't completely give up watching my favorite team, but I haven't even watched a Super Bowl since then. Everyone has the right to their own judgments and to support, or not support, what they want. I personally would rather support a sport like baseball, where they are at least trying to stop the cheaters.
    I guess I just find it amazing how the NFL completely lies about so many things, yet it remains the most popular sport in America.

  • In reply to Cubpack:

    The NFL might still be popular, but they have many empty seats and the tv audience is reduced. They lost me with the disrespect of the anthem. I miss it some and will be happy when they get over themselves. I don't care what other fans do, but the league isn't worth my time or dime.

    Baseball has more tradition in their game and we must stand on respect and fairness.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I agree 44, baseball has much more tradition. And I am thankful they are at least trying to stop the cheaters. Every sport has people in it that will break the rules if they are able to get away with it. I wish MLB would have suspended the players also, but I understand why they didn’t
    I’ve lost all respect for the NFL. And I don’t miss it at all. Give it some time & you won’t either (maybe)

  • In reply to Cubpack:

    This is very interesting to talk about. I'm sure that arguments like this will be brought up in the near future in sports/baseball shows, because this scandal may affect future attendance, MLB viewership, advertising, etc.., so eventually there will be an eloquent case made along this front and others as well.
    We all know there are players that are not good (i.e. violently dangerous) in the NFL, but this sport is much like a gladiator sport that is extremely violence-oriented, so fans don't expect all players to be high quality individuals.
    Also, no entire NFL organization has cheated (or at least covered up known cheating, which was done at the higher levels of Astro management) like the Astros did here. Nor has any organization fixed games to their advantage (yes, the Astros players are fixing games to their advantage, the benefit is that huge) like this. Belichick cheated, but that level of cheating is infinitesimal compared to stealing all of a pitcher's signs for every game. Everybody knows an NFL team's offensive and defensive play tendencies. They study film from every game. Team's don't change their offensive scheme willy nilly from week to week. You think the Packers don't already know that the 49ers will run heavily, and then use play-action to beat them with long passes. That Kittle should have special attention? That is just a small edge he was getting that is even debatable how much it even helps.

    What the Astros did, and probably other teams too, was organizational wide, and directly resulted in wins they would not normally have gotten. I don't think you can debate that.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    I disagree. The Patriots illegally filmed the Rams practices before Brady’s first Super Bowl. The Rams had put in 15 or so plays they hadn’t run all year. Mike Martz stated that during the game, the offense’s staff were dumbfounded how the Patriots seemed to know what they were running. He said it was as like they were in our huddle. That won them that Super Bowl. That’s easily as big as what the Astros did. They were also caught sending low level employees into visitors locker rooms before games to steal play sheets. How many games did that help them win? And Belichek is their coach & GM, so the “ whole” organization did know about it. And like I said, the NFL just swept that under the rug. Very few people in the general public even know about those things

  • In reply to Cubpack:

    Good points, Cubpack. I didn't know the level was that deep. Was that 100 % confirmed to be true. If so, Belichick is a dirty, lowlife cheat also. Still, I don't think it gave the Patriots the same advantage. To have the same advantage, they would have to know all of the plays called in the game, when they were called.
    But you make a good point that, if true, it very likely may have affected the outcome of the game.

  • Beltran just got fired by the Mets.

    This is big, as it should be.

  • If 2020 is a wash for the Cubs, I just got my season ticket double play for the Ray's. Under 4k for 20 & 21(lower box preferred section. I live an hour away and the Ray's usually field a pretty good team. Too bad the fan base is small and alot of the fans don't know much baseball except the hardcore.

  • In reply to Wrigley09:

    Hang on there, Wrig09. The Cubs just got Casey Sadler. We're saved!

  • In reply to Oneear:

    But wait there’s more. Saw on bleacher report cubs are looking at jacoby freakin ellsbury! To solve their centerfield and lead off issues. Dude hasn’t played in two years! Another low risk high reward guy I reckon. And the next tidbit of the day is from David Ross claiming cubs can hoist a World Series banner in 2020. What kool aid is he drinking.

  • Tony LaRussa installed a sign-stealing camera in the 80s with the White Sox. STL has already been busted once...

  • Cubs won the 2016 World Series.
    And they didn’t cheat to do it!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Testing 1,2...

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Check... Check.

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