The Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal has understandably taken a backseat in recent weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic. But it came back with a vengeance on Friday thanks to Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera.
In an interview on The Michael Kay Show on the YES Network, Rivera unloaded on the Astros. At one point, he even compared their scheme to Pete Rose betting on baseball during the 1980s, which led to Rose receiving a lifetime ban from baseball.
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) March 20, 2020
What’s the difference?
That’s the question Rivera asked when comparing the Astros sign-stealing scheme to Pete Rose’s lifetime ban for betting on baseball in the 1980s.
In his first public comments on the subject, Rivera suggested that taking away the Astros 2017 World Series championship wouldn’t be enough when compared to past punishments such as Rose’s ban handed out by former commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti.
If it was me, Michael, I'd be doing a lot of other things then taking the championship away. But that's me.
People that allow to happen. That doesn't happen just because it happened. Someone allowed that to happen. And those that allowed that to happen, what's the difference between Pete Rose and that? Pete Rose was banned from baseball. What's the difference? Pete Rose was one player, one manager. This organization was all the players. I don't care who was in there. It's cheating. And that's not right.
Rivera isn’t the first person to make the Rose comparison. Part of that is because there aren’t many other scandals of this magnitude to refer to in baseball’s history. Especially in modern times. It’s also because the integrity of every game the Astros played from 2017-2019 is in question, much like the integrity of every game Rose managed was in question.
Not surprisingly, Rose himself jumped on that bandwagon. In February, he petitioned for reinstatement again by referencing the Astros’ cheating scandal. The outcome will likely be the same. Two wrongs don’t make a right. But the scandal certainly gave him fresh ammunition.
‘You’re taking food from families’
Rivera also discussed the impact the Astros’ scheme had on individual players. Some of whom may have directly lost an opportunity due to Houston’s sign-stealing.
I respect all baseball people and organizations. What they did was wrong. Definitely wrong. You don't do that, period. You don't do that in baseball or any sport, you don't do that. And that's why I don't like it.
I don't care who you are. You're taking opportunity from somebody else. Winning the championship, or winning the batting title, or being the best pitcher. Whatever it is. You're taking food from families. Somebody might be fired because someone cheated. That's not right.
Even Rivera would have been vulnerable if he had faced the Astros during this time frame. He built his Hall of Fame career around a cut fastball that opposing batters often knew was coming, but still couldn’t handle. That’s how effective the pitch was. The difference here is that all doubt would be removed, which undeniably gives batters the edge.
Apply that difference to pitchers who weren’t as established or talented as Rivera, and you can see how jobs may have been impacted. That’s why the Astros sign-stealing scandal will be a sore subject around baseball for many years to come.
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