MLB’s Long-Standing Hypocrisy With Cheating

Is there an American sports league more synonymous with cheating than Major League Baseball? Not only would we argue so, but it’s probably not even close when accounting for MLB’s long history.

The Black Sox. Pete Rose and gambling. Steroids. More steroids. Sign-stealing. Juiced balls. And now Spider Tack baseballs.

Try to name cheating scandals in other American sports leagues and see how far you go. Uhm Deflategate? Tim Donaghy… and suddenly, we start drawing blanks.

Maybe non-MLB cheating cases aren’t as easy to recall because they’re not deeply etched into the league’s lore as in the majors. And heck, lore might not be the right word since several of those MLB examples are as recent as the past three years. At this point, it’s not only history, it’s ingrained into the fabric of the current system.

Yet despite this, no sports league acts more righteous than the MLB. Stats have asterisks next to them, players are outright banned, others are lapped over in Hall of Fame voting — all to preserve the “integrity” of the game.

MLB's Long-Standing Hypocrisy With Cheating

“MLB Cheating” by ABC13 is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Yeah, right!

When it comes to the subject of cheating in baseball, you either have to be 100 percent against it or heck, for it. The keyword is 100 percent.

That’s not the MLB, now or really ever. The league — and even the purist journalists that cover it religiously — are constantly flip-flopping between the stances. All this has done is leave the door open for more cheating (which we’re clearly seeing right now) and muddled the league’s history books.

To illustrate this hypocrisy, let’s play a little game of “strike or ball.” We’ll give you eerily-similar cases that have rocked MLB, then tell you which were seen and covered as strike (punishable and reprehensible) and which were balls (not ideal but became forgivable in due time). Soon enough, you’ll see that MLB brass drew a walk at the same rate as a strikeout. Let’s begin:

Strike: Pete Rose betting on himself

No need to beat a dead horse here. If you’re reading this article, you know where the banned-for-life Rose stands. It’s unlikely the all-time hits leader will ever be elected to the Hall of Fame, at least while he’s still alive. No second chances. Nothing. MLB officials have effectively “washed their hands” with Rose.

MLB's Long-Standing Hypocrisy With Cheating

“Pete Rose” by Britanica is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Ball: Baseball embracing betting for monetary reasons

For the longest time, in the eyes of MLB brass, nothing threatened baseball’s integrity more than gambling. Today? It’s the biggest way to grow the game’s revenue.

Go to any baseball stadium or watch a game live, you’ll be flooded with sponsorships from sportsbook operators. Sooner rather than later, game betting will be allowed inside most MLB ballparks. Yet despite this 180-degree shift in public opinion regarding betting, MLB “powers that be” haven’t budged on Rose’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame.

Strike: PED-Era Statistics

 Like Rose, prominent players from MLB’s steroids era of the ‘90s and early 2000’s, have been left out of Cooperstown (they’re not banned like Rose, but instead have struggled to accrue enough votes). That includes record-book holders like Barry Bonds, Roger Clements, Mark McGwire, and plenty more. It does seem like these players are inching closer toward a HOF nod, but nonetheless, they’ll forever have their stats and legacy’s tainted for using performance-enhancing drugs.

Ball: Juiced Ball Statistics

In the past few years, we’ve seen an explosion of home runs that is right on par with what occurred during the steroid era — if not better. Most attribute this to “juiced” baseballs. The balls, perhaps not coincidentally, seemed to drag less and carry more. The verdict remains out, but it’s unlikely today’s top hitters (e.g. Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, etc.) will hear “yeah but” with their too-good-to-be-true stat lines like steroid era ball players.

Ball: Astros cheating scandal

You knew this was coming, right? Somehow, someway Houston (and probably Boston, too) cheated their way into a World Series title via an elaborate sign-stealing scheme. Sure, a few coaches and front office personnel were fired, but the players and championship largely remain unchanged. Some way to protect the game’s integrity, huh?

Given the “slap in the hand” punishment MLB doled out for sign stealing, is anyone surprised of the current “sticky” baseball situation plaguing the league? Evidently so, players aren’t afraid of the flip-floppy MLB officials coming down on them for cheating anymore.

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