Fans have a lot of feelings about whether or not the punishment levied against the Houston Astros for their (no longer just alleged) cheating in 2017 was appropriate. Many Astros fans, of course, are still defending their team, but that's not what we're talking about here.
Ah, Astros fans.
In cast you missed it, the punishment handed down to the Astros looked like this:
Astros owner Jim Crane promptly fired both Luhnow and Hinch, and has already named Joe Espada as interim manager and current Assistant GM Pete Putila has been elevated to GM. Current Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was Houston's bench coach at the time and was reportedly intimately involved in developing the cheating infrastructure, will be dealt with once MLB is done investigating the Red Sox's own alleged cheating shenanigans during their World Series run in 2018. Alex Cora might be in a wee bit of trouble.
But what about the players? MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred released a statement saying he wouldn't be levying punishment against the players:
Carlos Beltrán, set to begin his tenure as manager of the Mets, reportedly was as deep in this nonsense as Cora. You'll see Beltrán pop up a few times in this video, where you can audibly hear the infamous trash can banging:
And yes, Beltrán seemed to benefit. While he had a pretty crappy year all around that season, offensively, his numbers were markedly better at home than they were on the road:
Overall, though, the Astros actually hit better on the road than they did at home during the regular season. The postseason, though, was a much different story, as every major Astros hitter got a boost at home during the playoffs leading up to their World Series victory. Yes, including José Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. It also can't be overstated how unfair it was to the teams that the Astros played that postseason, especially the Yankees and the Dodgers, and we are particularly prickly around here about the potential impacts the cheating had on Yu Darvish's free agency and mental state after that World Series. Thank goodness he and his family are so gracious, and he's now in such a great place emotionally.
So, why then are Hinch and Luhnow sitting at home right now guaranteed not to work for the next year in MLB while these guys aren't even getting fined?
My best guess is that MLB doesn't want to ruffle the MLBPA with the type of sweeping suspensions across a single team that would result from something like this. Think of it--effectively half of Houston's starting lineup would likely serve some sort of lengthy suspension, including the 2017 American League MVP winner and 2019's runner up for that same award. And while these are grown men and not toddlers, I do believe these punishments will spur managers and front offices in the future to put the kibosh on this sort of nonsense before it goes to far. Or, at least, before they can get caught. Still, I do think the players ultimately will be punished by losing a lot of respect in the eyes of fans. It's the type of loss that still gets Ryan Braun booed in ballparks around the country because everyone knows he cheated to win his MVP award in 2011.
Braun is effectively a baseball pariah. Oh, he's still around, but even MLB omitted him from a tweet in 2018 about all the MVPs that would be playing in the postseason that year (they corrected it hours later, probably after a call from the Brewers or something). And every social media post about him invariably includes dozens of "roids" and "cheater" replies--he'll never escape it, just like these Astros will never be able to escape this sign stealing scandal.
And honestly, being like Ryan Braun is the ultimate punishment, isn't it?