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Dodgers

Dodgers Dugout: Here’s what MLB should have done to the Houston Astros

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and vacation is over! The newsletter will be back weekly (or more) through the end of the postseason.

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The punishment for the Houston Astros, who used illegal sign-stealing methods throughout the 2017 season, including the postseason and World Series victory over the Dodgers, has been handed down by MLB. Here’s what they got Monday:

— A $5-million fine (the maximum allowable by MLB).

— Loss of their first- and second-round draft picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts.

— General manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were suspended for one year. Almost immediately, Astros owner Jim Crane fired both.

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My reaction: That’s it? That’s all they got? No players get suspended or punished? In other words, what this punishment means to me is that you can cheat to win games and nothing bad will happen to you, particularly if you are a player.

Commissioner Rob Manfred said it was too difficult to punish the players because it was impractical given the number involved and their degrees of participation. Further, player punishment could have prompted an appeal or grievance from the players union.

On Tuesday, the Boston Red Sox and manager Alex Cora decided to “part ways.” Cora has been heavily implicated in the Astros cheating and in the Red Sox alleged cheating in 2018.

Also, here’s a key paragraph from Jorge Castillo’s story in The Times, which was linked to above: “To what degree the Astros cheated in the 2017 World Series remains unclear. MLB’s report did not disclose any details on the scope of the activity in the seven-game series. The team still used a monitor to relay signs in the postseason, but ditched the banging mechanism, according to a person with knowledge of the league’s investigation. Instead, they waited until a runner was on base to flash the signs to the batter.”

Before I continue, I invite you to read this column by Bill Plaschke. He said many of the same things I am about to say, but said them better than I will.

So, this is what I would have done as commissioner, with the caveat that Manfred has access to evidence we probably haven’t seen:

1. Since the $5-million fine is the most allowed, then we’re stuck with that as a punishment.

2. Luhnow and Hinch suspended for three years.

3. Loss of the Astros’ first 10 draft picks in 2020 and first five in 2021.

4. Every player on the postseason roster is suspended for 40 games. I don’t care if they are on another team now. I don’t care if the player used the signals themselves or not. If you were on the team, you had to know about it, so you are just as culpable as everyone else. If a team has multiple players that need to be suspended, they can stagger the suspensions so they are spread throughout the season. And I don’t care if the union challenges the suspensions or not. That would make them look even worse to a lot of fans.

5. Every member of the Astros who received a World Series share has to return that share. Those shares will be divided equally and donated to a youth baseball and softball organization in every major league city. When the Astros are in a major league town for the first time in 2020, at least two players will have to visit a youth baseball and softball group and put on a skills seminar, and talk to the kids about the evils of cheating.

6. All World Series rings are to be returned and auctioned off for a charity of that player’s choosing. I’m guessing that a forfeited World Series ring could draw a nice price.

7. The 2017 World Series title is vacated.

Of course, sitting at my keyboard and handing out punishments is very easy since I don’t have to deal with various labor unions.

The Dodgers have not commented on the punishments because MLB has put a gag order on all teams. But you have to figure that the close friendship between Hinch and Dave Roberts has been changed somewhat by this.

After the punishment was announced, I received many emails from readers with questions or statements. There were two questions I received far more than any other that I’d like to address. I also invite you to read this Q&A by Bill Shaikin.

Why didn’t MLB award the 2017 title to the Dodgers?

That wouldn’t be fair. The Astros cheated throughout the postseason. They cheated in the 2017 ALCS against the Yankees. They cheated in the ALDS against the Red Sox. Who’s to say one of those teams wouldn’t have defeated the Astros and gone on to win the World Series? We’ll never know what would have happened if the Astros hadn’t cheated.

The Astros got to live the dream every kid who wants to play baseball dreams of: They got to celebrate winning a World Series. That joy, that feeling, can never be taken away from them. It can never be taken from their fans. Even if the title was awarded to the Dodgers, it wouldn’t be the same.

I’m tired of sour grapes from Dodgers fans. The Dodgers probably cheat too, they just didn’t get caught. Why should the Astros be punished when other teams do it?

It seems unlikely that the Astros and the Red Sox are the only two teams using technology to steal signs. But that’s no excuse for not punishing the Astros. If five people rob a bank and get away with it, then I rob a bank and get caught, does that mean I should go free because others have done it and not been caught? If other teams are caught doing it, they should be heavily punished too. Unfortunately, the punishment the Astros received isn’t an amazing deterrent.

OK. That’s all for today. Dodgers Dugout will be back Tuesday to talk about the players the Dodgers acquired or didn’t acquire the last couple of months.

Fan Event

The Dodgers will hold their eighth annual offseason FanFest on Saturday, Jan. 25, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., with free admission. Tickets go on sale starting Thursday at 9 a.m. at Dodgers.com/FanFest. For more information, click here.

What is your first Dodgers memory?

I’m guessing most everyone who reads this has been a Dodgers fan for quite a while. I’d love for you to send me your first Dodgers memory, and I’ll run it in an upcoming Dodgers Dugout. Include your name. And don’t send only a sentence, tell why that memory sticks out in your mind. You can email me your memory at Houston.mitchell@latimes.com. Thanks!

Until next time...
Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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