Column: Dodgers definitely were cheated out of 2017 World Series title by Astros’ sign-stealing

Clayton Kershaw reacts after giving up a three-run home run to the Astros' Yuli Gurriel during Game 5 of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park.
Clayton Kershaw reacts after giving up a three-run home run to the Astros’ Yuli Gurriel during Game 5 of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

For three years we’ve wondered, and now we know.

How did the Houston Astros’ hitters so easily pound three of the Dodgers’ hottest pitchers in two key games in Houston in the 2017 World Series?

How did they so easily wreck Yu Darvish for four runs in the second inning of a Game 3 Astros victory? How did they so effortlessly score 10 runs against Clayton Kershaw and Brandon Morrow in the Game 5 victory?

They cheated, that’s how.

They used technology at Minute Maid Park to steal the Dodgers’ signs. Their hitters knew what pitches were coming. They gleefully pounced on them. They accumulated 18 runs with 26 hits and six home runs in two series-changing victories that have now indelibly stamped an asterisk on an event forever marred by a sickening truth.


The Dodgers were cheated out of the 2017 World Series championship.

This is not sour grapes. This is not revisionist history. This is now and forever fact after a Major League Baseball investigation revealed Monday that the Astros used technology to cheat during their championship season.

Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, says the team suspected the Astros were using a system to steal signs during the World Series.

Nov. 12, 2019

MLB suspended both Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for one year. They were quickly fired by Astros owner Jim Crane. MLB also fined the organization $5 million and stripped it of two seasons’ worth of first- and second-round draft picks, yet it still didn’t address the true damage.

The Dodgers were jobbed out of a championship that would have ended a 29-year drought, and what is MLB going to do about that?

The Dodgers won’t get to claim the title. That damage has already been done. That parade has already been lost. But the Astros should be forced to hand the Commissioner’s Trophy back to Commissioner Rob Manfred right now, vacate the title and forever leave that space in the record books as empty as the organization’s integrity.

The Dodgers didn’t win it on the field, but history should forever note that nobody beat them.

“My dad died in February 2018 at the age of 87. We watched the 2017 World Series together and I was really hoping he would get to see the Dodgers win one more time before he passed.”
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Clearly, nobody knows what would have happened if the Astros hadn’t cheated. And, yes, the record will show that the Dodgers eventually lost the World Series in a Game 7 meltdown at Dodger Stadium that did not involve confirmed Astros technological cheating.

But judging from the oddities of those middle three games in Houston — something was eerily wrong with Darvish, Kershaw and Morrow — there never should have been a Game 7. If the Astros had not cheated in Houston, it says here the Dodgers would have won the series in six.

The nine-page commissioner’s report details how the Astros stole catchers’ signs throughout the 2017 season by picking them up on a television feed and relaying them to batters by banging on a trash can, confirming an earlier admission by former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers to the Athletic.

Jim Thompson illustrates MLB's sign-stealing investigations surrounding the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox.
(Jim Thomspon / For The Times)

Most cruelly, perhaps, the report notes that former Dodgers player Alex Cora, who was then an Astros coach, set the whole thing up when he “arranged for a video-room technician to install a monitor displaying the center-field camera feed immediately outside of the Astros dugout.”

Players could easily see the catcher’s signs, decode them, then relay the information by banging a trash can with a bat to indicate which pitch was coming.

This could help explain not only how the Astros won eight of nine games at home during that postseason, but also specifically how they could have so badly beaten three hot Dodgers pitchers.

Darvish entered his Game 3 start with a 1.59 ERA in two previous postseason starts with the Dodgers. Yet with noise from the trash cans apparently filling the dugout, he allowed four runs in the second inning.

Kershaw had pitched the best big game of his career in the series opener by allowing one run over seven innings while striking out 11 and walking none. Yet in Game 5, with the dugout TV glowing, he gave up a four-run lead and a three-run lead while being hammered for six runs in 4 2/3 innings.

Morrow allowed two runs in 12 1/3 previous postseason innings, but then suddenly in Game 5 he couldn’t get an out, allowing four runs on a homer, single, double and homer.

The Dodgers lost two of three in Houston, limped back to Los Angeles trailing three games to two in the series, and never regained their mojo.

In stealing the series, the Astros also stole pieces of reputations. The two losses in Houston furthered the narrative that Darvish was a choker, Kershaw could not pitch in October, and manager Dave Roberts struggled in big games because he overused Morrow.

Major League Baseball came down hard on three members of the Houston Astros. But when it came to the players who carried out the cheating scheme, MLB whiffed.

Jan. 13, 2020

Granted, Darvish blew Game 7, Kershaw has since continued his October heartaches and Roberts is still under fire. But if the Dodgers had won that series, wouldn’t the heat have been lifted off everybody? Would the ensuing two postseason failures have been viewed with such disgust?

Maybe Darvish is still a Dodger. Maybe Kershaw would have shed his terrible October reputation. Maybe Roberts gets a heftier contract extension and fewer boos.

On Monday night, the Dodgers released a statement that said: “All clubs have been asked by Major League Baseball not to comment on today’s punishment of the Houston Astros as it’s inappropriate to comment on discipline imposed on another club. The Dodgers have also been asked not to comment on any wrongdoing during the 2017 World Series and will have no further comment at this time.”

One ex-Dodger chimed in anyway Monday.

“If the Dodgers are planning a 2017 World Series parade, I would love to join,” Darvish tweeted. “So if that is in the works, can someone make a Yu Garbage Jersey for me?”

It’s funny, but it isn’t. The Astros cheated the title-starved Dodgers of far more than a championship. They stole a legacy. They robbed history. They changed the sports narrative of this city forever.

Seriously, why is that Commissioner’s Trophy still in their Houston offices? Why can’t they at least have the decency to give it back?

Better yet, the worthless thing should be tossed in a dugout trash can that the Dodgers can bang with a bat.