Eric Mitchell: Cheating in Professional Sports Is Nothing New

By Eric Mitchell:

This week Houston was rocked twice in 48 hours. First, the Texans blew a 24-0 lead in the AFC Divisional game to the Kansas City Chiefs, then on Monday Major League baseball released its findings and punishments to the Astros. 

The Astros stole signs electronically through the 2017 World Series and into the 2018 regular season.  MLB commissioner Rob Manfred hit the Astros with disciplinary action, including one- year suspensions for the Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch, which they will not be serving with the Astros.

Now we’re dealing with footage of players wearing buzzer devices under uniforms during games.  For some reason, players have been untouched in the investigation almost as if the league wants to brush cheating under the rug. This is far from the first time a pro sports league has looked the other way. 

Let’s hop in the DeLorean and visit 2007 and the NBA referee scandal that had NBA referee Tim Donaghy rigging games to fill his gambling addiction. While banned from the league, Donaghy closest friend and fellow NBA official Scott Foster still works a top tier referee, in fact, works several NBA finals and playoff games.  Foster had daily contact with Donaghy on game days while working different games, the calls suddenly stopped once Donaghy gave up gambling. 

The NFL is also not immune to cheating, looking at you New England Patriots. Two months ago the Patriots got caught illegally filming the Bengals (seriously the Bengals). The NFL once again did nothing.

Why do all the pro leagues fear actually punishing those involved? Is it fear of unions, negative PR or is fear of losing sponsor dollars? Why else won’t the MLB go after the Astros players? These players cheated to beat the Yankees dominant pitching in the ALCS in 2017 before facing the red hot Dodgers in the World Series. 

Yankee vs Astros 2017 ALCS Stats:

  • Astros at home:.238 average (29-122), 4 homers, 20 Strikeouts
  • Astros on the road: .120 average (11-92), no homers, 25 strikeouts.
  • Altuve hit .533 at home (8-15) and was hitless on the road (0-10) 

So clearly the Astros players knew this was happening and did nothing to stop it. The Astros should be stripped of their rings and the Dodgers should be handed the series. Yes as a Yankee fan I believe we should have faced the Dodgers in that series had the Astros not cheated.

MLB needs to get serious about this investigation and go after the players that benefited from cheating. What message is the league sending to the thousands of little leaguers that idolize these players? If I was the parent of a ballplayer that looked up to Jose Altuve, I’d have him find a better player that doesn’t cheat; Aaron Judge would be a perfect replacement. Just this week Aaron Judge deleted his two-year-old tweet congratulating Jose Altuve for his 2017 AL MVP (Judge was second in voting).

It’s time for these league presidents to lay down stiff punishments to players that cheat. We know the response… Nothing will happen, rating for baseball will match those of the NBA this season. These two leagues chase after the NFL but both are living in a negative PR nightmare. The NBA is riddled with Referee complaints nightly. This week alone the Portland Trailblazers won multiple challenges overturning bad calls. Baseball is America’s past time, and players on other teams are being vocal about why these cheating players are able to play ever again.  Its time to strip rings and banners down in Houston. Send a message to all pro athletes, cheating will not be tolerated.

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Eric Mitchell

Eric Mitchell (USMC-Ret) is the CEO of LifeFlip Media, a nationally recognized PR professional and a GOP analyst.

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