Sidelines: this week in sports

Photo Credit: Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Photo Credit: Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Astros’ punishments … not harsh enough

If that’s all it takes to win a World Series then every team in baseball should do what the Astros did. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred came down with his punishments for the Houston Astros cheating scandal last week, banning now-former manager A.J. Hinch and now-former general manager Jeff Luhnow for one year, taking away first and second round picks in 2020 and 2021, and fining the team $5 million (the maximum amount MLB can fine teams, per the CBA).

In what was undoubtedly a PR move on behalf of the Astros, owner Jim Crane fired Luhnow and Hinch, with the hope being that this effectively will end their careers. If neither man ever work in baseball again, the punishment would be more justifiable. But a one year ban and some picks? For a World Series championship? I bet everyone in the Astros organization is satisfied.

I will say, though, that Manfred’s description of the Astros culture in MLB’s lengthy report was rightfully harsh, so I commend him for that. This is an organization that is probably the best in the league in terms of finding and developing talent, yet is littered with rotten eggs all over the place; be it their cheating coaching staff, players or their former assistant general management who bragged to female reporters about the wife-beating closer they just acquired.

It’s a toxic organization, one whose hitters should and probably will never be respected by baseball fans and players alike. Jose Altuvé, who spoke for the first time at the Astros winter fanfest, played the underdog card, telling reporters that his team loves to play baseball and is going to prove everybody wrong by making another World Series. Whether a publicist told him to say that or not, you can already see members of the Astros trying to win the hearts of baseball fans.

I truly hope they are booed at all 81 road games they play and history will remember the 2017 World Series Champion Astros with a big ol’ asterisk next to their names. Just like we remember A-Rod’s inflated stats or Barry Bonds’ real-but-not-really home run record or Ben Johnson’s gold medal or Tiger Woods’ marriage, the 2017 Astros title should be remembered the same way.

Alex Cora, who was the mastermind behind the scheme in Houston, continued his cheating ways after getting the job as the Red Sox manager the following year; yet another tainted World Series title. Now, MLB has not finished their 2018 Red Sox investigation and the extent to which they cheated was not nearly as egregious as Houston’s, it is fitting that Cora was fired by the Red Sox even before Manfred announced Cora’s suspension. All reports suggest that Cora’s will be far more severe than Hinch and Luhnow — hopefully a lifetime ban. Again, the full report hasn’t come out yet, but I already hold the 2018 Red Sox in a higher light than the 2017 Astros. I will never be able to acknowledge that 2017 team as legitime champions. The Red Sox in ‘18? More so.

Pete Rose, the all-time hit king who never cheated the game, is still banned for life because he gambled on his own team’s games as a manager. He is not in the Hall of Fame because of this, yet, in theory, Hinch could be working in less than a year? What Rose did was wrong, of course, and he deserved some sort of punishment, but it’s ludacris that the Astros punishments were lighter than Rose’s. They cheated their way to a championship.

It’s not Black Sox level bad, but I do think it’s right up there with the steroid scandal in the 90s and early 2000s. Many pitchers have stated they’d rather face a juiced up hitter than someone who knows what pitch is coming. The frustration there is that guys who got shelled in Houston were sent down to the minors, costing them millions of dollars, not to mention a chance to pitch in the big leagues. I don’t understand how the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

Now Manfred didn’t suspend any players, nor will he, and while frustrating I do understand and agree with it: there are so many players who now play for other clubs that it would be too difficult to track them all down and ‘punish’ other teams because of it. I put punish in quotes because the Blue Jays’ dud of an outfielder Derek Fisher, who was on that 2017 Astros team, knew what pitch was coming and still hit .212.

Only time will tell what the 2017 Astros legacy is; hopefully it is one that is tainted, not respected and shunned by those far and wide.


Curb Season 10 … pretty, pretttayy good

Not sports related but the 10th season of Curb Your Enthusiasm premiered Sunday night and totally held up. Perhaps it’s nostalgia or the fact that it’s been so long since we’ve gotten some fresh Curb, but Larry David and co. came out strong with a great first episode. From (spoilers, but not really it’s a comedy) Jeff being mistaken for Harvey Weinstein, to Larry using a MAGA hat as a people-repellent to Larry possibly getting back with Cheryl, I was thoroughly satisfied with the first episode.

One thing they did not touch on yet (though I suspect they will soon) is the lack of Marty Funkhouser in the season. The legendary Bob Einstein, who played the Funk Man, passed away just over a year ago. I do hope they pay tribute to him at some point in the show, and again, I’m sure they will.

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