Print By Adam Zielonka and Matthew Paras – The Washington Times – Monday, January 13, 2020 Schoolchildren used to learn that cheaters never win and winners never cheat. But that familiar playground lesson may no longer apply in a modern sports landscape where breaking the rules is often the quickest way to the top. The…
But that familiar playground lesson may no longer apply in a modern sports landscape where breaking the rules is often the quickest way to the top.
The Houston Astros fired manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow on Monday after Major League Baseball handed them one-year suspensions over the team’s use of a camera system to steal signs from opposing pitchers during two seasons, including their World Series winning season in 2017.
The Astros join a growing roster of championship teams, high-profile coaches and big-name college programs embroiled in scandal recently as the pressure to win ramps up while technology makes cutting ethical corners easier.
Shawn Klein, a philosophy lecturer at Arizona State University who runs the blog The Sports Ethicist, said there always have been rule-breakers and always will be, but keeping up with the new ways to cheat is a challenge.
“These things are extraordinarily hard to enforce, to catch in the process, that this just requires the leagues to be involved in policing this sort of surveillance,” Mr. Klein said. “Whether it’s sign-stealing or cameras in different parts of the stadium, it seems to require a lot on the part of the leagues.”
He compared it to keeping up with the ways athletes dope, another well-documented area of cheating in sports. There is a key difference, though, between athletes using performance-enhancing drugs and an “organized, institutional effort,” Mr. Klein said. He noted that no Astros players were punished by MLB.
“When you start looking at the team as a whole, that raises the concern of the collective responsibility that might be carried over to people who really didn’t want to be a part of it but didn’t have many other good options other than leaving the team altogether.”
The Astros‘ camera-based scheme mirrored the New England Patriots’ “Spygate” in the NFL.
Luhnow, reject the label of “cheater.”
The former Astros general manager said in a statement that he took responsibility for the scandal but insisted it happened unknowingly on his watch.
“I am not a cheater,” Mr. Luhnow said. “Anybody who has worked closely with me during my 32-year career inside and outside baseball can attest to my integrity. I did not know rules were being broken. … I would have stopped it.”
That defense was not enough to prevent Mr. Luhnow from saving his job, and the severity of the Astros case could prevent him from working in baseball.
“People are losing their jobs, and that’s pretty significant,” Mr. Klein said. “It sends a strong message to the rest of the league that this isn’t something that’s going to be tolerated or swept under the rug or looked aside anymore. If that’s what Major League Baseball is trying to do, I think that message has been communicated by these punishments.”
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