Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Outrage over sign-stealing scandal proves baseball remains national pastime

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Baseball has taken center stage in sports this week. It hasn't been a good week for baseball, but that demonstrated why, while football may be an obsession, baseball is still our national pastime.

If you are a sports fan, you know about the sign-stealing scandal that cost Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, manager A.J. Hinch, Red Sox manager Alex Cora and New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran their jobs. It also cost the Astros money and the loss of top draft picks for 2020 and 2021.

The investigation into electronic sign stealing is far from over and could end up hurting the Red Sox, or other teams, in a similar fashion to what happened to the Astros.

So much of what we have heard this week from commentators and on social media is that the players, managers and teams have not been punished enough. The Los Angeles City Council, in a nice bit of grandstanding, may consider a resolution asking Major League Baseball to give the Dodgers World Series championships after taking them away from Houston (2017) and Boston (2018), two teams that are in the middle of the maelstrom.

What is truly fascinating is the reaction to what happened, and not what actually happened.

Ryan Cameron is a Williamstown native, a former Mount Greylock and UMass baseball standout, and a former pro. He was drafted in the 11th round of the 1998 MLB First Year Draft by the Colorado Rockies. Cameron made it to Class AAA with the Rockies, the Red Sox and the Phillies. He now works for General Electric in the Albany area and is probably the second-biggest Springsteen fan I know.

But he took to Facebook, and eloquently wrote about this scandal.

"It has irked me every time I hear folks talk about Houston's antics or PED's in a dismissive way. It cost guys careers. It cost cities championships. It created an unbalanced playing field. I'm not saying I was a sure shot MLB'er by any means, but I was damn close," he wrote, "and for the rest of my life, I have to sit and ponder what would have been for me if my teammates weren't cheating. There are a lot of guys in my same shoes as a result of this Astros scandal."

The loss of jobs, talk of forfeiting championships or games is so baseball. When things like this happen in football, it is all about when do the players return or similar discussions.

Take Spygate for example. The Patriots were caught twice by the NFL for videotaping defensive signals by the New York Jets coaching staff. It happened back in 2007.

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Now, there were very few on social media or in the commentary class calling on Bill Belichick to be fired from his job. Some argued that he could have been suspended. And I don't remember anyone suggesting that the Patriots get tagged with losses against the Jets from the 2007 season.

When "Deflategate" and its aftermath came about, the only people who lost their jobs were the low-level employees who were involved in the act of taking air out of the footballs.

The moral compass of the NFL is far different than the one in Major League Baseball, and "Astrogate" just proves it.

Responses to the use of performance enhancing substances offers more proof.

According to an ESPN.com article from September, there were 10 players suspended at the start of the season for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing substances. One of them was Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson, who had taken a banned substance in the wake of his retirement, only to come out of retirement and accept his four games.

Nowhere was there any discussion that he should not have played this year. Do your suspension and get on the field.

The same goes with offensive tackle Taylor Lewan of Tennessee, arguably the best lineman for the Titans. If he had been suspended for the season, the Patriots might be playing today.

What players and teams do matters more in the big picture for baseball than for football. Pete Rose is still, correctly in my opinion, banned from baseball for betting on games. Alex Karras, who was suspended for an entire season for gambling on football, is going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.

And while the solid wall of resistance for PED users to get into Cooperstown is starting to chip away, it is likely that the wall is not ready to fall down.

This is why, although football vastly out-rates baseball on television, in fantasy sports and casinos, baseball is still our national pastime. There is no other way to explain the reaction to what has gone on.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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