Houston Asterisks

I don’t care much about baseball, so I don’t really have a dog in this fight. But Rick Morrissey of the ChicagoSun-Times asks a good question: if the Houston Astros will be allowed to keep their tainted 2017 World Series title, what’s the argument for un-personing Pete Rose?

For the longest time, I had zero tolerance for the lying, gambling, hair-dyeing Rose. Major League Baseball had given him a lifetime ban for wagering on big-league games as a player and as a manager, making him ineligible for Cooperstown induction. With a laptop in one hand and a Hall ballot in the other, I railed against him. He had damaged the game, and there was no place for him wherever honors were being handed out.

But then Monday happened. Major League Baseball punished the Astros for their enthusiastic cheating on the way to the 2017 World Series title. It suspended manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for the 2020 season for their part in a sign-stealing scandal, fined the franchise $5 million and took away its next two first- and second-round draft picks. Soon after the announcement, the Astros fired both men.

That might seem like a harsh punishment, but it doesn’t address the result of all that cheating: the World Series title. Winning one is the ultimate team accomplishment in baseball. There’s no way to dilute the fact that Houston conned its way to a championship. An MLB investigation showed that the Astros used the sign-stealing system during the 2017 regular season and into the postseason.

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All of this paves the way, at least intellectually, for the recognition of Rose in the Hall of Fame. He and the Astros both committed cardinal sins in the eyes of baseball, but only one of them is a complete pariah.

The Hall will be forced to acknowledge in some way that the Astros’ 2017 World Series title, and possibly Boston’s 2018 title, was tainted by cheating. But a lifetime ban means Rose can’t get inducted into the Hall. The scales of justice seem to have some balance issues.

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