The Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, and a Loss of Honor

C.S. Lewis once observed that, “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

The Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox and all those associated with their cheating scandals are now paying the price for dishonoring the great game of baseball. Houston manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended by Major League Baseball for one year and then promptly sacked by owner Jim Crane.

The hammer has yet to fall on former bench coach Alex Cora because after winning the World Series in 2017 with Houston, he then took his cheating ways to Boston, where MLB is conducting an investigation into that team’s illegal use of video technology during their own championship season in 2018.

Given that both Cora and the Red Sox are repeat offenders, a lifetime ban for Cora is not out of the realm of possibility. Cora was also the ringleader of the Houston scheme. Hinch “merely” refused to stop it. After the Astros fired Hinch and Luhnow, he and the Red Sox “mutually agreed to part ways” in a semantics game that fooled nobody. He was fired.

In his report on the Astros, Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote:

the baseball operations department’s insular culture — one that valued and rewarded results over other considerations, combined with a staff of individuals who often lacked direction or sufficient oversight, led, at least in part, to the Brandon Taubman incident, the Club’s admittedly inappropriate and inaccurate response to that incident, and finally, to an environment that allowed the conduct described in this report to have occurred. [Emphasis Added]

In other words, the desire to win at any cost led to a series of events that included, but was not limited to, cheating. The Astros sacrificed their honor to gain an advantage via illegal means even after Manfred sent a memo to all 30 teams saying that such behavior was unacceptable.

The Astros and Red Sox determined that winning was everything. They can claim this did not affect the outcome on the field, but nobody outside of Houston or Boston believes them, especially nobody in New York or Los Angeles.

They sacrificed everything for that one moment where they could call themselves champions and despite all that has happened to the Astros and all that will happen to the Red Sox, you can not go back in time and take away the jubilation that comes with winning a World Series in the moment. Those memories are real.

Baseball is a game that has almost as many unwritten rules as written ones. Next to golf, it is the sport that polices itself the most. Break one of these unwritten rules and your next at-bat could lead you to wearing a 90+ MPH fastball in the back.

There have been attempts to do away with these in recent times in the name of player safety and letting the players have a little fun. Which is all good, but the decline in regular society in concepts of honor led us here.

The cultural shift in the past many decades that says our beliefs about ourselves is the only one that matters. The Astros think of themselves as champions, so who cares what you or I think?

The idea of not listening to the haters and having self-esteem has its merits as we do not want to be defined by bullies or other unscrupulous individuals, but we all know, even if we do not want to admit, that our reputations matter. As former Secretary of Labor Raymond Donovan famously asked, “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”

Our reputations matter to us because as individuals, we operate in society with other individuals. It is why we fight back against liars and other assorted hacks who try to exile us from polite society. It is why it is said there is only one chance to make a good first impression.

Having a high sense of self-esteem is not in and of itself a bad thing. It can even be a good thing because it protects against taking honor to its extreme which can lead to the unwillingness to forgive oneself for past mistakes or even increased rates of suicide.

Fastballs to the ribs may still be a part of baseball, but in larger society, it’s a good thing questions of honor and dishonor are no longer settled by pistols at ten paces.

But self-esteem taken can also can be taken to it’s extreme. When it is it leads to self-delusion (the 2017 Astros are cheaters, no matter how much they try to say it didn’t impact the games. “My truth” is a nonsensical phrase). It also leads to an erosion of higher moral principles. For the Astros, concepts of fair play and honesty took a back seat to winning. It’s not cheating, it’s gaining a competitive advantage.

The Astros and Red Sox are a lot like Richard Nixon. Nixon was not unique in that he was corrupt, but that he was caught and he paid a price that someone like Lyndon Johnson didn’t. His foreign policy accomplishments (ending American involvement in Vietnam, bringing Egypt into the Western camp, the opening to China, ect.) are a footnote in popular history, but everyone knows him for Watergate. Indeed, “gate” has become a suffix in recent years to describe every kind of scandal or “scandal” imaginable, from the silly to the serious.

The 2017 Astros and 2018 Red Sox are going to be end up the same way. Who knows how many other teams were using illegal technologies to steal signs, but none of that matters. They were two great teams with great managers and great players. The Astros had the feel good story of winning after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston earlier in the year. But 50 years from now all anyone is going to remember is that they permanently sold their honor for a temporary emotional high. Was it was worth it?

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Writing about politics and other interesting things. Contributing Writer to NewsBusters. Member of YAF’s National Journalism Center’s Spring 2019 class.

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Alex Christy

Alex Christy

Writing about politics and other interesting things. Contributing Writer to NewsBusters. Member of YAF’s National Journalism Center’s Spring 2019 class.

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