COMMENTARY: Houston Astros deserve harsher punishments for cheating scandal


Juan Diaz / Hilltop Views

The Houston Astros are facing consequences for a series of recent cheating allegations over their conduct during the 2017 season. The team was eventually crowned World Series champions that year.

The Houston Astros will not win the World Series this year. Maybe not next year either. No, it’s not because Houston lacks talent, but rather because of the toxic win-at-all-costs culture that has tarnished their organization.

On Jan. 13, MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred suspended Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch for one season for stealing signs electronically. Manfred also fined the Astros $5 million and deprived the team of first-round draft picks for the 2020 and 2021 season. Shortly after the commissioner’s announcement, Luhnow and Hinch were fired.

According to ESPN, a hidden camera in center field streamed the catcher’s signs in real-time (cable streams usually have a three-second delay) to a monitor which was set up outside the Astros’ dugout on a table next to a plastic trash can. 

Two Houston employees would stare at the monitor and try to decipher the catcher’s signs. Once decoded, an Astros employee would bang the trash can twice to indicate an off-speed pitch was coming. If a fastball was anticipated, no noise was made.

According to The Athletic, teams may not use electronic equipment for the purpose of stealing signs or conveying information. This is not the first time a team has tried to steal signs electronically. In 2017, the Red Sox were fined for using Apple Watches to relay the catcher’s signs to the hitter, per Forbes.

MLB gave the Astros a light slap on the wrist for violating this rule. A $5 million fine is essentially pocket change for them. Preventing Houston from picking in the first round is soft: the MLB Draft lasts 40 rounds. If anything, MLB should have taken away their International Pool Money because of the rising demand for international players. In fact, 29% of current MLB players were born outside the United States, per

But wait, there’s more. The real mastermind behind this scheme was Houston’s then bench coach Alex Cora, former Boston Red Sox manager. Cora was aided by then Astros player and former New York Mets manager, Carlos Beltran. Both Cora and Beltran were mentioned in the commissioner’s report, but not disciplined immediately.

Cora was fired a day later by Boston. Soon after, Beltran and New York parted ways, according to NPR.

Beltran was sanctioned because he had recently accepted the manager role with the Mets. None of his All-Star teammates – Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman or Carlos Correa – were disciplined by the MLB. The man has a family to feed. Meanwhile, his teammates remained silent and let him take the fall. 

I don’t feel sorry for Cora. His dirty scheme allowed the Astros and Red Sox to eliminate the New York Yankees and defeat a powerful Los Angeles Dodgers team in the World Series. 

The secret is out. The Astros cheated their way to a World Series ring in 2017. Hinch, Beltran and Cora are gone, for now. 

As Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood said, “I would rather face a player that was taking steroids than face a player that knew every pitch that was coming.”