The Houston Astros celebrate beating the Dodgers to win the 2017 World Series. The Astros have been penalized for an illegal sign-stealing operation conducted during the 2017 season. (Tribune News Service)

MITCHELL’S MUSINGS: Ethical errors proving costly for baseball

Paltry punishment, gag orders opposite of what’s needed; house cleaning, real justice in order

Houston, we have a problem.

Actually it’s not just the Astros, it’s all of baseball that has a problem. A credibility problem.

The verdict is guilty in the case against the Astros winning the World Series in 2017 with the aid of a video camera in centrefield helping relay signs to batters on which pitch was coming their way.

This prolonged and sophisticated technological cheating manipulated home-field advantage to a ridiculous level, utilizing uncharted ethical lows.

The punishment? Two managers suspended for a year and subsequently fired, two draft picks surrendered, a $5-million fine and that’s it.

No player was disciplined, yet they had to all be in on it. I like the managers taking the fall, even though they had limited knowledge of it, apparently because the captain should go down with the ship.

But the ship isn’t going down.

The team itself hasn’t been banned or suspended. The championship remains intact. No vacating of the banner, no asterisk on Houston’s only championship. Spring training is coming. Play ball. Get over it.

And there’s more to come with Boston’s manager likely facing suspension and the 2018 Boston Red Sox championship in doubt. Well, it happened. It’s in the record books. Two of the past three World Series champions cheated and got away with it. Lesson here kids?

The owner of the Astros doesn’t think this taints his team’s championship. Come again? It’s so tainted, it’s rotten.

Some say maybe the cheating didn’t play that big a factor and they would have won anyway. That’s the thing, we’ll never know cause a fair fight wasn’t in the cards. And realistically, zero chance it wasn’t a factor.

Ask a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, who lost both those World Series, if they think it might have been a factor?

Some say the problem is more widespread and to punish more harshly is hypocritical. More reason, actually, to come down hard on those who actually get caught.

Pete Rose says he was banned for life for betting on baseball and this is worse. I hate to say it, but Charlie Hustle is right. He bet on his team to win, not to lose, and didn’t cheat to do it or threaten the integrity of the game. Much. I wish I could say that about the Stros and Sox.

I was lucky enough to attend a playoff game this past season at Yankee Stadium with my family. I happily drank my $12 American beer in our $122 cheap seats to see the Yanks beat the Twins in game one of the ALDS in the house that Ruth built. If I thought, for any reason, and I wasn’t looking for cameras in centre field, the game wasn’t on the up and up I would demand my money back and ask for directions to Madison Square Garden.

I’m not sure those who pursued these cheating schemes, or even MLB, understand what’s at stake here. The integrity of the game. The soul of the sport. America’s pastime? Indeed.

Paltry punishment and gag orders are the opposite of what’s needed. House cleaning, open debate and real justice are in order.

Let the soul searching begin, the apologies relayed and the forgiveness begin. This is going to take time to rebuild trust.

A sport is on the brink and only sunshine and honesty can save the day. Ignoring the problem is only going to make it worse and is an insult to its legion of loyal and dedicated fans. Ticket sales will be down, TV ratings will suffer and baseball will take notice. Hopefully, it won’t be too late.

Glenn Mitchell is a columnist and former editor of the Morning Star. Fan mail can be emailed to mitchchap1@outlook.com.

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