Former Orioles shortstop and current MASN analyst Mike Bordick says the Houston Astros’ World Series championship in 2017 is “completely discredited” due to the team’s sign-stealing scheme that year, and he says technology-aided sign-stealing is probably more rampant than it appears.
The Astros fired general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch after the two were suspended one year by MLB, which found that the Astros used technology to steal signs in 2017 and 2018. The Astros were docked first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts and fined $5 million as well.
Alex Cora, Houston’s bench coach in 2017, and Carlos Beltran, a player on that 2017 team, also lost their jobs after MLB detailed their roles in the scheme. Cora was the manager of the Boston Red Sox from 2018-2019, leading the team to a World Series title in 2018. Beltran took the New York Mets managing job ahead of the 2020 season but didn’t make it to spring training.
Bordick, who played in the big leagues from 1990-2003, joined Glenn Clark Radio Jan. 15 to discuss the scandal.
On how widespread the use of technology is to steal signs:
I don’t know how elaborate Houston was, banging on a trash can. I think sign-stealing’s been in the game forever, but usually it’s just a competitor’s choice, whether it be a pitcher tipping pitches or a catcher just exposing his signs. So adjustments have to be made in that regard, but the technology part of it has become a huge influence in the game. I think the fact that the commissioner came down the way he did I think sends a huge message, and I think to me it says it’s more prevalent than just those two teams. You guys are going to get caught and you’re going to be done, basically out of the game of baseball. I also applaud the owner of the Astros for the taking the action he did. I think there’s no part in the game for that kind of stuff, especially as egregious as it was. I just think everyone is on high alert right now, and it might help bring the game back a little bit.
On if baseball can get technology out of the game when it comes to stealing signs:
As far as stealing signs, it has to stop. It has to, and I think that’s why the punishment was so harsh, and I think it’s going to continue to get even harder. I know that the players are protected by the union, but they’re as much at fault as anybody. I know they’ve got to live with the decisions they’ve made and they still get to flash their World Series rings around and things like that, but I just believe there are going to be more punishments from this. I think there’s going to be a trickle-down effect to some extent, and I think just teams need to be held accountable for this. And I’ll tell you what: If teams continue to get popped for this kind of technology-based sign-stealing, I’ve got no problem with removing the technology. Let’s bring the game back completely, without the instant replay, without the use of iPads in the dugout. I don’t think that’s right anyway. I think they were asking for problems doing that in the first place.
On if this scandal compares at all to the steroid era:
I’ll tell you what, the fact that the Astros got caught, all it does is tell me that the reason they did it is because someone else was doing it so they wanted to get an advantage as well. It’s probably more rampant than we think, just like the steroid issue was more rampant than anybody knew until the bubble got burst. … I’m not going to say there was a competitive balance at all with the steroid era, but … I’ll tell you, if I knew what pitch was coming all the time, I might be in the Hall of Fame right now. It’s just that easy, honestly, and that’s how good big-league players are. If they know what pitch is coming, they’re going to hit it and they’re going to hit it hard. The Astros proved that and won the World Series, and then the Red Sox obviously the next year. I don’t know if you can really compare the two, to be honest.
On if he still considers the 2017 Astros legitimate World Series champions:
They’re completely discredited, in my opinion. I think they tried to rewrite the book, to some extent on how the game was played. To go down like that — as cheaters in the playoffs, in the World Series — to hoist the trophy, are you kidding me? Absolutely completely discredit everything that they stood for, to be honest with you.
On if similar penalties should be handed down if other teams are proven to have used technology to steal signs:
If the technology is being abused in that regard, that is a complete and total unfair advantage. What happened to the game where you’re having a competition against the mound? It’s mono e mono, basically. It’s about strategy in the game of baseball, not overall cheating. The numbers kind of speak for themselves, how distinct an advantage it is to know what pitches are coming? And I’m sure teams have done it before. There was always talk about the White Sox at Comiskey Park, a light would come on and it would tip off a sign or something like that. And I’m sure teams have tried. And that’s the point: the commissioner sending this shot, saying, ‘If you do it, you’re out of the game.’ How are you going to get a job? Are those guys going to be out of the game for the rest of their lives? A lot of the talk is yes. It’s going to be tough, right? I think they have to continue to have these harsh penalties. I think in a way it’s going to be ultimately beneficial for the game because it’s going to bring it back a notch and you’re going to have to play baseball instead of fricken’ cheat at it.
On whether teams simply must be more vigilant about the way they relay signs:
There have to be adjustments made with the way signs are given, but the fact that a television camera can pick up the signals and then all the sudden be relayed to players who are stepping into the batter’s box is not right. It’s absolutely not right. The technology has kind of gained so much strength and popularity in the game that they’re just trying to pull it back right now. If there’s a runner at second base and he can pick up signs and try to relay it in, there’s recourse for that as well, and typically that kind of stuff is handled on the field. Of course, the way retaliation has been kind of curbed back, I think you might start seeing it more and more, back to that old school kind of game again where players kind of police themselves on the field. Nobody likes the cheaters in the game. The guys that stand up for it, there’s some form of retaliation.
For more from Bordick, listen to the full interview here:
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