A FRESH START

By:  Kurt Snyder

You can always tell.

It doesn’t matter what kind of team the Tigers are projected to be. The initial news at spring training is always very optimistic.

Everyone seems to look good. Before a single spring game is played, the stories out of Lakeland are glowing.

And without fail, it always seems to begin with Miguel Cabrera. So many times we have heard the same words.

He’s in the best shape of his life.

He really looks good.

The infectious smile.

The laughing.

The joking.

It’s all back again in 2020 and he is ready to have a big year, right? How often have we heard it?

So many times we have heard all the right things and it was because he was in his prime and coming off hugely productive seasons and ready to put up another one.

But you know what we saw last season.  A season like no other for Miggy. Career lows in almost every category. Virtually no power whatsoever. A slow bat. And what else?

Overweight.

Out of shape.   And thus overmatched at the plate.

So the challenge was on for Miggy heading into the off-season. Lose weight. Get in shape and take the pressure off those knees and that back.

The reaction to the challenge and the promise from Miggy was mostly, ‘we will believe it when we see it.’

Well, challenge accepted and challenge met.

The pictures tell the story. Miggy is noticeably thinner. Maybe about 25 pounds thinner. And, of course, he is back to laughing and scratching and looking good in the cage.

That’s the message in week 1. The type of message we have heard so many times before.

But it’s a refreshing story. Sure, Cabrera and his health will continue to be concerns all season. The hope is that he can turn things around. The good news is that he has responded in a very positive way, by trying.  Something he didn’t seem to do prior to last season.

Again, it’s refreshing, but with a different feel.

Typically, we’ve jumped all over the media in town for blowing smoke up our you-know-whats and spreading all the feel-good propaganda.   You’ve read it.  You’ve heard it.  It’s been disgusting.   And very typical.

But in Lakeland in 2020, so far, it does seem to feel good.

The difference?  No one has hardly mentioned you-know-what. And I hope they don’t.

The stories have been about the Tigers.  The new guys. The young guys. The guys who left Detroit and are now back.

Tiger baseball.

And for now. That’s just fine.   That’s good enough for now.

Because we have heard enough from Houston. And we have heard enough from a long list of players around the league denouncing all the reprehensible activity.

And I commend the Detroit press for not shoving a microphone into the faces of our players in Lakeland and asking them what they think.

This scandal isn’t going to die down all season.  And we are going to have to get ready for it.   But we can certainly start in Lakeland and in Detroit by not joining the fray.

Of course, Cameron Maybin had to field a question or 2, but it would be expected that the Detroit media would want to get a point of view from a new (and old) Tiger who won a ring in Houston in 2017.

But that’s enough.   Please don’t take it any further.  Let Lakeland be our oasis.

Hopefully, there will be some developing story lines that we can sink our teeth into and dissect. Cabrera is always a popular topic, and already the story line on Miggy is, well, familiar.

And this time?   It’s ok.  It really is.  It beats all the ugliness we have endured all around us.

Spring training is underway in Lakeland.

Miggy is lighter.

The laughter is back.

And according to the Detroit media, he was “mashing” it in the batting cage.  Doesn’t it make you laugh and shake your head at the same time?   It does for me, but this time I’m ok with it.

I think everyone is ready for a fresh start.


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BASEBALL IS EVERWHERE

By:  Holly Horning

I’ve just returned from a short vacation where my husband and I spent 4 days south of The Bronx. A small province called “Manhattan.”

But never fear, I was not going there to switch allegiances to a winning baseball team. It was supposed to be a vacation that focused on food, friends and the finer things in life. No baseball.

Except I learned that you can’t escape the game. I kept running into baseball everywhere I went.

For the record, my husband was born and bred in Manhattan. And he was never a baseball fan. He did, however, know that Ty Cobb was the greatest athlete to play the game.

But in typical New Yorker fashion, he believed that the best all wore pinstripes. Imagine my horror when he claimed that Cobb was a Yankee.

I quickly set the record straight. And we’ve been married for 33 years now.

His father, on the other hand, lived and breathed baseball. He played it, too, well enough to be offered a contract by the Yankees to play shortstop. But instead, he signed up with the Army to fight in WWII.

And when Dad met me and discovered my love of the game, he laughed and said “Finally! The son I never had.”


If you missed my tribute to my father-in-law, catch it here:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2018/11/14/the-greatest-game-the-greatest-generation/


Ironically, Dad was not a Yankees fan later in life. He followed the Mets while he lived in NY but also loved the Indians, esp. the war veterans like Bob Feller. Omar Vizquel, for the record, was his favorite player during the modern era.

But everywhere you go in NY, you see them. Thousands of Yankee baseball caps. There is no other city where more residents sport that hat.

And they wear it with pride.

And why not? Yes, we all hate the Yankees but why is that?

It’s because they are winners. Consistent winners. They have high standards and make no excuses. We want what they have.

And their fans are very loyal. But also extremely vocal.

And if you’re the owner, never try to pull a fast one on them. They’ll come after you en masse in a NY minute. Like the time when the Yankees tried to jack up the prices for box seats in their new stadium. That didn’t work out very well at all.  Score one for the fans.

Even Brian Cashman is fearful of the potential for fan wrath. The Yankees recent “rebuild” only took 6 months and Cashman said that the fans wouldn’t have tolerated anything longer.

Imagine the power that Tigers’ fans could have if they could channel that NY attitude. Ah, but I digress….

But I did see a Tiger cap in NY as I ventured into Grand Central Station’s excellent new restaurant level and walked into celebrity chef Donatella Arpaia’s Prova PizzaBar. I was immediately greeted by Fred, wearing the Old English D. Of course, we had to talk baseball.

Fred told me that it’s hard to give up your allegiance to the team from your hometown. In his case, Royal Oak. And my question to him was about his favorite players. Without hesitation, Tram and Lou.

He also regaled me with a number of stories about Jim Leyland and why he admired him.

Yes, baseball and pizza are often found together, especially in Detroit. But I can verify that Arpaia’s pizza tastes nothing like the pizza franchises found in Detroit. And that’s a very good thing….. If the Yankees made pizza, it would taste something like Arpaia’s.

In the same vein, baseball and food once again intersected the next day. This time, at Ess-a-Bagel, widely known as making what most experts deem to be the best bagels in the country. Proof is found in the 1-1.5+ NYC-long blocks waiting in line to get in. Even on Monday mornings.

And once inside, the place is packed. So filled that one wonders if the fire marshall turns a blind eye.

But here he came through the crowd….. with patrons staring at him. The man wearing the Houston Astros baseball cap.

And he came over to the table next to us.

I smiled and said, in a joking fashion, “You are risking great danger to your well-being by wearing that hat.” Afterall, the Yankees lost to Houston in the playoffs back in 2017 and Yankee fans are irate, to put it mildly.

In true Astros fashion, he arrogantly said “I have no fear. Our team is the best in baseball and we won fair and square.”

And then he decided he didn’t want to sit at the table next to me and left. The table that took him approximately one hour to get.

Maybe he realized that the truth hurts.

During my stay, I kept hearing snatches of conversation between outraged Yankee fans over Houston’s cheating.

And right on cue, as I later walked down Park Avenue, I saw a familiar logo. A new building going up.

MLB’s flagship store. And above it? The new home of MLB’s Commissioner Rob Manfred.

It’s too bad I didn’t have the time to stop by and chat with him about his many missteps. I had dinner reservations and simply couldn’t miss Daniel Boulud’s culinary artistry.


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TROUT SPEAKS OUT

By:  Kurt Snyder

I’m tired of hearing from the Astros. Tired of all of them. From their owner on down to even their new manager, Dusty Baker.

Yep, already tired of listening to him, too, as someone who comes in and must defend this atrocity and support his players. But, get him on a barstool for a couple of hours and I’m sure what he says then would be totally different.

What I am finding much more appealing is what we are hearing from players outside of Houston.

From Trevor Bauer and Kurt Suzuki and Justin Turner to, yes, the best player in the game today, Mike Trout.

Now we are getting somewhere.

Trout has always been the quiet leader for the Angels. Quietly destroying MLB with his bat, his legs and his glove.  He has a squeaky clean reputation as the unquestioned face of the game.

He rarely speaks on issues outside of his own ball club. But he has now. And he has now become just one more player to admonish the steps the Commissioner has taken (or not taken) to address this growing albatross of a cheating scandal.

Trout doesn’t address Rob Manfred by name but he doesn’t have to; he is genuinely puzzled by how a ‘player-driven’ operation (the way Manfred puts it) ends without any punishment levied on the players.


“It’s sad for baseball,” Trout said. “It’s tough. They cheated. I don’t agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing. It sucks, too, because guys’ careers have been affected. A lot of people lost jobs. It was tough…”


Well, Mike … welcome to the club. The more we hear from the Astros players the more cringe-worthy it is to think that they were granted immunity in exchange for speaking out about the scandal.

This scandal has taken a big chunk out of the game. It has done serious damage. And how you get free of it depends on your leaders. The people in the game you still look up to and respect.

You have a chance to overcome this when the best player in baseball speaks up. When he speaks out against the players involved in this mess.

Knowing he has lost respect for so many of the Houston players is a very good thing. And it should speak volumes for those guilty of the cheating that the face of the game is disappointed that they haven’t been punished.

It should be a sobering thought for the Commissioner as well. He can’t be pleased that players outside of Houston are beginning to speak out against the decisions he has made.

But the face of the game? Yeah, Rob Manfred couldn’t have been happy with what Mike Trout had to say.

When you have potentially lost the trust of the one player who represents your league the best, you have to wonder how much longer you have or how much longer you want to remain as the Commissioner.

Manfred is not without sin in this whole mess. And it has become clear to the entire league. His protection of ownership and baseball executives and then absolving the Houston players of all guilt, should represent strike 1, strike 2 and strike 3 in this whole mess.

We were bound to hear all the opinions from around the league. But hearing from Trout was a head-turner. Who expected this from him?

If you had to guess, wouldn’t you expect a very generic and non-committal middle of the road opinion from him?

Well, I sure did.

Mike Trout has turned out to be the rose in a bush full of thorns. And it’s the good news story in all of the bad.

Some may see Trout’s comments as having little impact. It’s just another player with an opinion. But this isn’t Jordy Mercer talking, this is the premier player in our league.

And we may find out soon that his position and his opinion are highly influential when it comes to Major League Baseball and the people responsible for the game’s future.


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WOULD YOU RATHER…

With another holiday weekend upon us, let’s have some more fun with our newest blog, Would You Rather.

As you will see, the choices aren’t easy – and that’s the way it’s meant to be.  But it is meant to stir up some good discussion.

As always, we welcome your comments, so please vote and then submit your reasons ( 4 sentences max!) for how you voted in the usual comment box.  Don’t forget to come back later and view the results!



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QUESTION OF THE WEEK

It’s time again to hear from our readers!   Today is the day to let us know what you’re thinking on a selected topic.

Sunday is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can get those juices flowing.

Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences.

We can’t wait to get your thoughts on the following topic.


What are your thoughts on the signing of Cameron Maybin?


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THE SATURDAY SURVEY

The Saturday Survey offers another way for readers to weigh in on a relevant topic.   So here is a poll to gauge the pulse of our baseball-lovin’ peeps.

As always, we welcome your comments, so please vote and then submit your reasons ( 4 sentences max!) for how you voted in the usual comment box.  Don’t forget to come back later and view the results!



Totally Tigers loves your comments!  But please remember that responses are only published if they address today’s topic, are respectful and do not exceed the maximum 3-4 sentence response length.  All rules are at:  https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/commentsrules/.

 

TWICE AS NICE

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Another week has gone by and not much has changed. The Houston Astros and their little scandal continue to dominate the sport.

Right on cue, Pete Rose continues to look for opportunities to state his case for reinstatement and induction into the Hall. And he has chosen this particular controversy to help support his case.

Kurt and Holly have not shared their answers to the following question for the purpose of offering a wider range of perspectives.

So let’s get to it and see what our writers have to say.


The Houston Astros cheating scandal was the catalyst for Pete Rose once again applying for reinstatement this past week. He claims that Manfred’s move to not punish Astro players should end his ban from baseball. Does Rose have a valid argument?


HOLLY

Pete Rose’s argument is an apples to oranges one that dares to compare a team’s drive to win consistently with baseball’s historic attempt to save the game by banning gambling. Technology rules are new to the game with MLB still refining the guidelines while the rules against betting go back 100 years and are crystal clear.
It’s known as Rule 21 and is posted in every MLB clubhouse and accompanied by a yearly meeting. Each player signs a legal document stating that they understand the rule as well as the consequences of becoming permanently ineligible should they break them.

It has come out that Rose has continued his vast pattern of lies because betting books, tied to The Mob, were seized that showed Rose bet with them – both for and against the Reds winning. He bet as both a player and manager and as records showed, participating in over one-third of all games, incurring serious debt and even being imprisoned for tax evasion.

There are no bans in baseball for sign-stealing yet Rose signed document after document year after year stating that he knew the consequences. Let’s not forget that he accepted the permanent ban from baseball in exchange for MLB not pressing charges.

He’s lied for decades and continues to deny that he bet as a player and also against his team. So it’s no surprise that he continues to downplay his transgressions while trying to once again to put the blame on yet another Commissioner.


KURT

Pete Rose absolutely has a valid argument. The more we learn about this cheating scandal and the more we are subjected to the attitudes of the players, the more disgusting it becomes.

The more we hear from Astros players and their disingenuous, emotionless and rehearsed apologies, the more frustrating it becomes, knowing that they will not be punished in any way.

I have become enraged over this whole thing, so the timing is perfect for a question like this. The ‘Pete Rose for the Hall of Fame’ people are about to be very pleased.

Fresh off a blog on this very topic, I am finding that this scandal makes Rose’s misdeeds seem pretty elementary, given how far reaching the current scandal is and the potential for it to continue to spread.

I am none too happy with the state of our game right now. I have lost a lot of respect for the Houston Astros organization, one which I had applauded for such a successful rebuild culminating in a World Series championship.

Pete Rose was one guy making bets on his team; not cool, but nothing compared to this. I have come to a conclusion about Pete I never thought I would support.

Give the man his plaque, we’ve got bigger fish to fry.


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QUEUE THE LAWYERS

By:  Holly Horning

I have been watching one heckuva reality tv show. It features an incredibly large all-star cast. Altuve… Beltran… Bregman… Chirinos… Correa… Gonzalez… Gurriel… Springer and others too numerous to mention.

Amazing performances of men who have the ability to look at the reporters and cameras straight in the eye and say, with a straight face, that they didn’t cheat.

This program is on YouTube and all you have to do is type “Houston Astros cheating proof” into the search box. And you can easily spend hours watching video compiled by the professionals that are now multiplying faster than rabbits since Rob Manfred stated that MLB found “no evidence” of wearable technology.

The cameramen think otherwise.

The videos show everyone just how prolific the “Trashtros” were in cheating. And the many ways they skirted baseball’s rules, that had, in fact, just been reinforced by the Commissioner.

Remember that it’s just not the trash cans. It’s the whistles and other noises coming from their dugout. It’s the employee who aimed his camera into the opponents’ dugouts. It’s the relievers in the bullpen either folding their arms or hanging them over the fence in code.

And it’s the wearable technology. Close-up video of clear band-aids on baseball bats. One highly-embarrassing video of an Astro trying to hide the evidence when the bandage fell off his bat and he tried to stick it in his back pocket, only to have it stubbornly stick to his batting glove despite repeated attempts to hide the evidence.

The video of Jose Altuve winning the game for the Astros with the walk-off home run against the Yankees that sent his team to the World Series and a slowed-down close-up shot of what appeared to be a patch under his jersey. The same clip where he screams to his teammates not to take off his jersey.

The same one where the entire team is running onto the field to celebrate while Altuve makes a beeline in the opposite direction for the clubhouse so he can change his shirt.

Sorry, Jose, your comments about the need to look modest don’t quite cut it. Aaron Sanchez thought so as well. A Yankee who said that if it were him, his teammates could strip him down all the way to his underwear if he had hit that homer.

But there’s more.

Yet another video of Altuve cleaning up the dugout and pocketing the same type of clear bandage similar to the video of the other one mentioned above.

Ask any mom. Or momager. Whenever we see a young guy cleaning up after himself without being asked, our alarm bells are ringing madly. This is not normal behavior.

Evidence shows quite clearly that the Astros, in what appears to be participation by the majority of their starting lineup, broke the rules. We can now put faces to specific acts.

And I don’t think I’m the only one watching these videos.

I’m sure that the Dodgers and Yankees, among others, are watching them, too. And taking notes. Along with their attorneys.

I come from a family of lawyers and have been thoroughly schooled by them over the years. They’ve taught me how to think like a lawyer as well as educate me about how cases are built and the evidence required.

So I can’t help but believe that individuals and other teams are gathering concrete evidence. Afterall, when your team is cheated out of approximately $75 million in just dollars alone from winning the World Series – along with millions reaped from marketing, flags, trophies, increased attendance and advertising dollars which come after winning the ring – you’re simply not going to let this drop.

What are the chances that at least one team is assembling a legal case – or at least enough evidence to persuade MLB to amend their ruling? We already have the first of what will be multiple pitchers, who saw their careers killed because of Houston’s cheating, filing a lawsuit.

We are also seeing cracks in the Astros’ armor. The blame game has started with former players admitting what happened and a trickle of current players throwing Carlos Beltran under the bus for his strong-armed tactics in ruthlessly pushing the illegal program.

How long before this gets really ugly and more players turn on each other? Will these athletes, if they haven’t done so already, seek legal counsel?

But here’s where it gets really interesting. Can MLB still take action?

While it’s true that Rob Manfred gave players immunity for their testimony, was his legal promise done as a blanket agreement with the Players’ Association or did each player receive legal paperwork specific to them?

And did this contract specify that immunity was granted only for their testimony or did it grant them complete immunity from anything to do with the cheating scandal?

If a player cannot be punished for the information they reveal verbally, can they still be held accountable if video shows them cheating?

There’s certainly enough official game film evidence to prove them guilty.

Could this be the way that justice is served? Could video be the loophole that allows MLB to legally punish the players?

We know that Rob Manfred wants this debacle over as soon as possible. But the story is simply picking up speed and revealing new and ugly information now on a daily basis. Does Manfred now need to put more heads on a stick in order for this to go away?

The media smells blood and that is not a good thing for either baseball or the Astros. No journalist is going to sit there passively. Count on at least a couple high-profile writers to actively pursue leads and do more interviews like The Athletic and The Wall Street Journal are continuing to publish. We’ve already see the explosion of proof on major social media and apps as those with access to video are compiling the evidence for them.

If not the media, the fans will not allow baseball to forget. This could be a very messy – and dangerous – year for the Astros whenever they take the field at home or on the road. Just imagine the absolute hell waiting for them in NY. The scenes, which will, of course, be broadcast everywhere, may push Rob Manfred to do more.

And baseball, with its continuing attendance decline, can’t risk alienating any more fans.

The Astros used band-aids to win. MLB can’t afford to use bandages to cover up the open wounds.


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MEMORIES FADE

By:  Kurt Snyder

When it’s all said and done, this cheating scandal could eventually go down as one of the worst of my lifetime.

Maybe even the worst. Because we really don’t know how far-reaching it may end up being. The seriousness of it really cuts deep when not even the Commissioner is without guilt.


If I look back and contemplate the highest profile scandals in my memory, certainly the one with the most staying power is Pete Rose and his ban from the Hall of Fame due to betting on the game.

I certainly remember Pete Rose as having one of the greatest careers in the history of the game. When you sit down and really think about it and look at the numbers, he should be a slam dunk Hall of Famer.

Except…

He cheated.

The man who set 19 Major League records, gambled on the game and then spent years and years and years denying it. And lying about it.

But it’s so hard for fans and historians to look past all the lofty numbers and achievements. And yes, it is also very hard for people who are more concerned with the health of the game, the integrity of the game, to ignore egregious acts of deceit.

It’s hard for many.

But people forgive. So many people forgive. The phrase ‘time heals all wounds’ carries a lot of weight.

Emotional decisions can be made in the blink of an eye. And so many times they circumvent your brain. Emotions come quick but with time, you tend to be more logical.

However, there is an interesting twist in all of this. With time comes forgetfulness. With time comes forgiveness.

Yes, Pete Rose is one of the greatest baseball players to ever put on a uniform. And yet, when he cheated and bet on baseball, emotionally, his great career was cast aside as nothing. And it is hard to wrap your arms around it.

How can you completely discount what he accomplished?

While you consider that, consider that he bet on baseball late in his playing career and as a manager. He cheated on his income taxes. He denied betting on baseball for 15 years until there was more money to be made.

It was in his book, My Jail Without Bars, that he finally admitted that he bet on baseball. To make a buck. Come on, Pete! You created the jail cell!

Even in his confession, it had strings attached to money. Pete Rose wanted and still wants it all. And it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Do I think he should be in the Hall of Fame? It’s amazing how difficult he has made it to answer.


So what is he doing these days? Well, he has now attached himself to the very scandal that is currently dominating the game.

Rose has decided this is a perfect opportunity for him. He has decided that this scandal can help him.

The argument? The executives and players knowingly and willingly practiced deceit to gain advantage and to potentially alter the results of baseball games.

It’s a fair argument. I can see Rose’s point.

What he did seems to pale in the face of this cheating scandal.

But this isn’t about Pete Rose. He had his day. He had his time. He could not bring himself to understand that denying what he had done for so long was hurting him and his legacy. Almost to the point where some just didn’t care anymore about his accomplishments.

People just want him to go away.  But many want him in the Hall already!

It’s amazing how your fading memory can alter your opinion on so many things. Memory has faded on Pete Rose’s betting and now it just doesn’t seem so bad.

In basketball, there are actual arguments about who was better, Michael Jordan or Lebron James. How soon people forget.

Derek Jeter? Is he overrated? What? There are people, even after watching him play shortstop for 20 years in New York or followed him from afar, questioning whether he was really that good of a baseball player. Simply amazing!

Mariano Rivera? Speaking of sign stealing. It wouldn’t have helped a single hitter standing at the plate knowing full well you are never going to hit him. Yeah, people questioned why he was a voted unanimously into the Hall! Holy crap!

Whitaker and Trammell?  The Tigers should have sent video of every double play to the league, just to refresh the memory of the greatest double play duo of all-time.

Memories fade. And the same thing will happen with this cheating scandal today. It will pass. Penalties will be levied and more people will be found guilty of participating.

It will go down in history as one of the biggest sports scandals ever. But who knows how it will be viewed in 20 years.  Or 40.  Depending on what the future brings, it may pale in comparison to some new scandal we can’t yet foresee.

It may not seem so bad.

In the end, so we don’t get too down and too concerned about what all the misdeeds are doing to our game, maybe it’s best to include all of it and embrace it as part of the big picture.

The great story of baseball.

Didn’t the game used to feel perfect? Well, as we have grown, we realize it is not.

There have been missteps along the way. They all have found their place in history. The scandals strangely add an element of intrigue to the history of baseball. They are, like it or not, important.

Black Sox

Corked Bats

Owner Collusion

Pine Tar

Pete Rose

PEDs

Electronic Sign Stealing

There is a feeling that this last one is different than all the rest.  With interest in the game at an all-time low, a scandal like this could be devastating.

But baseball has survived so many of these things. And it’s my feeling that it will survive this as well.   Memories fade.


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THE SECRET SCANDAL

By:  Holly Horning

The stain is spreading, folks.

What was once the Houston cheating scandal has become so much more.

What once involved one team ended up spreading to other organizations.

And after leaked emails became public late last week, this scandal now encompasses the entire game.

The reputation – and future – of baseball is at stake.

And it has now ensnared the Commissioner’s Office.

If you are going to MLB TV or MLB Radio to get the facts, don’t bother. They are owned by MLB and no one, I mean, no one, is going to go after Rob Manfred.

Yes, you will hear some of the latest details. But the most important stuff, the most disconcerting stuff, is not being mentioned. The reports have all been sanitized.

The biggest questions – the biggest concerns – are not being asked by those in baseball.


In case you’ve been unable to keep up with the latest breaking news, here is a brief summary of the latest evidence uncovered by that non-baseball medium, the Wall Street Journal.

Jeff Luhnow, Houston’s GM, was presented with a sophisticated cheating program called Codebreaker in 2016 by an employee – a full year earlier than reported. The strategy was used both at home and away. Evidence is showing that it was used for at least 3 full years, not just one.

Luhnow, as GM and Head of Baseball Operations, was involved in signing off on the budgeting for the program (an actual budget line listing it as “Dark Arts”) and he was often in touch with those implementing it. There are also emails from employees discussing the program with him.

The development, existence and funding of the program proves that the Astros Front Office was the original source of the sign-stealing plan. Not the players.

The two men who invented, implemented and refined the program are still Astros employees. Both were promoted into new positions. One of them actually used his work developing Codebreaker as his argument for getting a raise.

Jeff Luhnow received a letter from Rob Manfred on January 2nd that showed the Commissioner believed that the Front Office was guilty. He said “there is more than sufficient evidence to support a conclusion that you knew—and overwhelming evidence that you should have known—that the Astros maintained a sign-stealing program that violated MLB’s rules,” …I intend to hold you accountable for the egregious rules violations that took place under your supervision. ”

But on January 13th, Manfred’s public statement said “The Astros’ methods in 2017 and 2018 to decode and communicate to the batter an opposing Club’s signs were not initiatives that were planned or directed by the Club’s top baseball operations officials. Rather, the 2017 scheme in which players banged on a trash can was, with the exception of Cora, player-driven and player-executed.”


Huh?

Rather convenient that MLB put the blame on the players but gave them immunity while also proclaiming that the truly guilty were not involved.

Very little blood was spilled. Almost every single Astro spared.

Neat and quick.

Why would Manfred write that he knew Houston’s Front Office was complicit and then publicly say it wasn’t?

Is it because a number of Front Office personnel ended up leaving Houston for promotions with other teams? Did the scandal need to be contained?

Could it be that the owners put pressure on him to put this travesty to bed asap?

Or was it because MLB, historically sweeps problems like gambling, PEDs and opioid addiction under the rug as quickly as possible? Is their m.o. to scapegoat a few, declare a resolution and then move on quickly?

Was their intent to investigate as little as possible and reveal as little as possible? Manfred’s report completely omits mention of “Codebreaker” and that it was being used back in 2016. Just two of his many public omissions.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

Let’s remember that Mike Fiers went to MLB twice with evidence of cheating and nothing was ever done.

But at least a lot of our questions have been answered. Such as how could an organization that was prized for its control of information and data, plus their attention to details, be totally unaware of the cheating being practiced?

How could A. J. Hinch not have put his foot down and told his players to stop? He was the manager after all.

Probably because the program was developed, approved and driven from above. In all probability, he became the sacrificial lamb who was caught squarely in the middle.

So what we have here, according to Commissioner Rob Manfred, is merely a lack of leadership by 2 people. Nothing more. Both suspended for a year. Slaps on the wrist.

MLB has deliberately shielded everyone, except for Luhnow (primarily), from punishment.

A highly-intelligent man, a top lawyer and holding baseball’s highest position who comes to the conclusion – at least publicly – that players took over the organization and planned the heist. And we all know that athletes are highly-trained individuals in statistics, computer programming and the latest in high-tech advancements. Not to mention their capability of developing sophisticated wearable technology.

Manfred also wants us to believe that this same small group of individuals managed to keep everything secret and plan a strategy that involved nothing more than a tv monitor and trash can.

Not to mention the Commissioner’s statement that implied these players were so smart, and so crafty, that there was not a single shred of evidence that MLB could use so they were “forced” to offer every player immunity.

What we now have is 4 years of carnage that has impacted a number of clubs, the reputation of the game and fan faith.

And only 2 people were punished out of the hundreds involved. Potentially one of them – the manager – had no choice and no power to stop it.

We’ve officially entered the Twilight Zone, folks.

That, or the Commissioner believes that fans are absolute idiots.

This cheating debacle is now being touted as baseball’s worst scandal in history. And it’s going to continue to grow. This week alone brought a confession by former Astros pitcher, Charlie Morton, that everyone on the team knew what was going on.

It also brought the first lawsuit, brought by a promising young pitcher who was shelled by the Astros and ended up losing his career. There will be others.

It is a cover up of epic proportions by MLB to try to pave over the nasty bits. In part, because they ignored the warning signs over the years and reports filed by other teams over the past 3+ years.

Ironically, it is a lack of action that is only bringing increased attention to the problem.

Baseball has suffered major damage to its brand. A brand that has consistently been losing fans over the past 6 years.

Not the brightest of moves by baseball’s governing powers.

And if you think this off-season has been a soap opera, just wait until the season gets underway.

The biggest question to ask is why Rob Manfred continues to bury the real problem, which is only continuing to snowball with each new day.

For the record, MLB has been officially silent and not responding at all to the investigation done by the Wall Street Journal.

Just don’t expect Manfred to leave baseball because he’s making money hand over fist for the owners. And it’s a question we will leave for another blog in the near future – not today.


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