Photo via Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
The baseball world was expecting the hammer. A near-guillotine-era punishment. A swift but harsh swing that will establish to others that cheating will not be tolerated.
Instead, the baseball world got the near-metaphorical slap on the wrist.
After over three months of suspense, the punishment for the Boston Red Sox for their involvement in the sign-stealing scandal was determined. The punishment for Boston involved the forfeiture of their second-round pick in the upcoming MLB Draft, the suspension video replay operator J.T. Watkins for the 2020 and 2021 season and the suspension of Red Sox manager Alex Cora through the 2020 MLB postseason.
The punishment came after the Houston Astros’ involvement in video sign-stealing. The punishment for Houston included forfeiture of their first and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 MLB Draft, one-year suspension for Manager A.J Hinch and General Manager Jeff Lunhow (who were both fired by ownership quickly after) and a $5 million-dollar fine.
While the punishment for Houston is questionable in regard to severity, the punishment for Boston is downright criminal.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred concluded that, from the investigation, the Red Sox scandal was not on the same level as Houston. However, the level of punishment should not matter.
With MLB (and sports as a whole) becoming more technologically savvy with computer monitors and replay systems, the wrong precedent is being set with these punishments, especially regarding Boston. Even though the reports mention that Watkins acted close to alone, the coincidence is almost too perfect, as Cora had involvement in the scandal in Houston. More severity should have been put on the Red Sox.
The comparison in regard to scandals in the baseball realm is nothing. The technology used is relatively new to the baseball world, and the technology used to cheat was on a scale that (at least that we know of so far) has never been seen before.
With this technology becoming more and more of the norm, the possibility to use it in an unethical way has risen and will continue. However, if the punishments are relatively light, especially in regard to Boston, then what is the motivation for other teams to not attempt a similar cheating maneuver? If the price to pay is a mid-level pick and the suspension of one or two employees, where is the fear?
The ruling by MLB, especially with the suspensions counting this year even with baseball not taking place, makes Manfred assume that a similar scandal will not take place. This is a dangerous assumption that, should other teams get caught, could ruin the fabric and reputation of the game.
A tougher stance on Boston, and even Houston, gave MLB a chance to draw a deep line in the sand in that cheating will not be tolerated, and if you do it, you will be hit hard.
For Boston, though, that hit did not come. No matter who was involved, the punishment should have been equivalent to Houston, as both teams cheated. No matter how much you boil it down, that fact still remains.
Instead of the guillotine or hammer, the Red Sox got a humorous tickle.
For Manfred and MLB, a golden opportunity to be severe and up-front was missed. The ramifications of that, as a result, could show themselves in the coming seasons should other teams be caught.