We have all suffered emotional pains so visceral that time does little to dull their sting. Discovering years after the fact that the horrors were the result of gross injustice only drives the knife in further.
It now appears that this might very well be the case with the Dodgers’ harrowing seven-game loss to the Houston Astros in the 2017 World Series. Sure, there were rumors at the time that the Astros were committing that most egregious of baseball sins—stealing signs—but those rumors took root in the fertile soil of home-fan heartbreak.
But now it is coming to light that the sign-stealing accusations may be all too true.
Former Astros pitcher Mike Frier, a member of the 2017 team, has come forth with accusations that the Astro routinely employed an elaborate scheme to steal signs at critical junctures in games. And while baserunners peeking into the catcher’s crouch from the basepaths is a time-honored part of the game, it is strictly forbidden to use any sort of mechanical or technological advantage to accomplish the sneaky deed. Friers contends that the Astros had a camera placed in center field that would carry the live-feed—network feeds are on a time-delay—to a screen in or near the dugout, where a team employee would then relay if the Dodgers were throwing a fastball or an off-speed pitch. A huge and illegal advantage that is textbook cheating.
USC vacated the 2004 NCAA Football championship when Reggie Bush’s parents were found to be living in a house rent-free while he was enrolled, certainly an offense with less impact on the actual play of the game.
If true, this re-writes the entire story of the series, and the pressure is on for the league to open an investigation. While in a just world the Dodgers would be hoisting a 2017 banner and passing out rings next Opening Day, in our fallen world there is no plausible scenario whereby the Dodgers would be awarded the Series title by default. There is, however, a distinct possibility that the Astros would be forced to vacate theirs. USC vacated the 2004 NCAA Football championship when Reggie Bush’s parents were found to be living in a house rent-free while he was enrolled, certainly an offense with less impact on the actual play of the game. And the main players in the brewing scandal—manager A.J. Hinch, designated hitter Carlos Beltrán, and back-stabbing former Dodger/bench coach Alex Cora—would face grievous punishment from the league. An argument could be made for lifetime bans from the game.
In game five, it certainly looked like the Astros batters knew exactly what was coming out of Clayton Kershaw’s hand while he was still winding up, making one of the most overpowering pitchers in the game look like he was tossing batting practice to the ’27 Yankees, but they had a Murderers’ Row of their own, and the Dodgers’ bad luck has been imprinted this town’s psyche like a childhood trauma. We didn’t trade the Babe and we didn’t ban a goat, but we clearly did something shortly after October of 1988 to greatly displease the baseball gods.
But of course, none of that does anything to assuage the pain of that series loss. If anything it just makes it crueler.