Barber: Why Astros get to keep their World Series trophy
Don’t strip the Houston Astros of their 2017 World Series championship.
Mock them, revile them, call them the Asterisks. Wear a bootleg Houston jersey to the Oakland Coliseum this season and join the drum bangers in right field, a reminder of the Astros’ favorite method of relaying stolen signs. Treat their accomplishments with suspicion. Applaud the firings of former general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, both of whom turned a blind eye (at least) to the grift. Call for Astros players to be suspended, too, and demand that Jim Crane sell the team if you’d like.
But don’t argue for taking that World Series trophy. Don’t fall in line with, among others, former MLB player David Freese, Fox Sports Radio commentator Chris Broussard or professional shouter Stephen A. Smith, all of whom have suggested the Astros should vacate their title. Don’t write in support of the Los Angeles City Council’s resolution urging Major League Baseball to take recent championships from the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox (who imported the scam) and award them to the Dodgers.
NFL legend Kurt Warner joined this chorus Thursday when he tweeted, “In terms of sports, what’s worse than ppl who cheat & then apologize with no ramifications on what they accomplished while cheating??? I’m all for 2nd chances but to allow accomplishments to stand while cheating is being done just spits in the face of TRUE competition!”
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the sentiment. The Astros clearly cheated, constructing an elaborate, technology-driven system to let their hitters know whether the next pitch would be a fastball or breaking ball. That platform fundamentally tilted the playing field in Astros games. It helped them play in two World Series and win one of them. It tarnished the careers of opponents and reaped financial rewards for the Astros, collectively and individually.
So yes, I get what Warner is saying about “no ramifications on what they accomplished.”
Oh, and another thing: The Astros, true to form, are doing everything they can to make the worst of the situation. After hiding for the first 24 hours of spring training, they all faced reporters Thursday. For the most part, the contrition was tepid and/or tone deaf.
“Our opinion is that this didn’t impact the game,” Crane, the energy and shipping magnate, said of a scheme to impact literally every pitch thrown by opposing pitchers at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros deserve neither our sympathy nor our respect — or our trust. They should be scrutinized and questioned like the scoundrels they are. But if you’re going to draw the line of punishment somewhere short of Guantanamo Bay, you should draw it right before revoking that World Series trophy.
The most obvious reason is the absurdity of pretending something didn’t happen. Sports seems to have a fetish for this sort of thing.
Listen to the arbiters of sports championships, and you will be convinced that Reggie Bush did not win the 2005 Heisman Trophy (no one did!), that Marion Jones did not claim five medals at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, that the Louisville men’s basketball team didn’t win 123 games between 2011-15 — least of all the 2013 NCAA championship game — and that Lance Armstrong in no way won seven consecutive Tour de France cycling races beginning in 1999.