Someone needs to remind the Los Angeles City Council that there is no crying in baseball. Or whining, for that matter. And definitely no do-overs.
The council voted Tuesday to ask Major League Baseball to undo history and declare the Los Angeles Dodgers winners of the 2017 and 2018 World Series because, according to the resolution, the winning teams — the Houston Astros and then the Boston Red Sox — cheated. A league investigation concluded that Astros players used in-stadium television feeds throughout the 2017 playoffs to decode the hand gestures that catchers used to signal their pitchers what to throw next and then banged on a garbage can to alert the batter what to expect. The investigation is continuing with regard to a similar complaint about the Red Sox, whose manager, Alex Cora, had been deeply involved in the Houston scheme the previous year. (The Sox have already fired Cora).
The council resolution is silly. Yes, the Astros violated baseball rules, and it looks like the Red Sox probably did as well. And they should be punished — more on that in a bit. But there is no way to prove that the Dodgers would have won either Series absent the cheating. Knowing what pitch is coming next gives a batter an advantage, but he still has to hit the ball (or wait out a walk), and the team still has to score runs. Besides, the Dodgers themselves have had their integrity questioned. Players on the Milwaukee Brewers apparently suspected them of stealing signs during their 2018 playoffs series (which the Dodgers won).
In any case, the City Council is in no position to make demands of Major League Baseball, so the resolution pushed by members Gil Cedillo and Paul Koretz strikes us as, well, grandstanding.
But cheating in baseball is clearly a problem. And the league’s strong punishment for the Astros has one glaring omission — penalties against the people who actually did the cheating. Major League Baseball fined the team $5 million, stripped it of some draft choices, and suspended team officials. (Four people eventually lost their jobs as a result of the scandals.) Yet the league opted not to penalize any of the players. Why not? Doing so would be “difficult because virtually all of the Astros’ players had some involvement or knowledge of the scheme,” baseball commissioner Rob Manfred wrote in announcing the findings. “It is impractical given the large number of players involved, and the fact that many of those players now play for other Clubs.”
In other words, Major League Baseball is saying it doesn’t have the capacity to hold cheaters accountable, even though the scandal leaves the league with an indelible black mark.
But waving off the sins of its players because disciplining them would be too difficult sends a signal of its own — one you don’t have to cheat to understand.