Houston Astros cheating scandal is among many immoral approaches when it comes to sports. The scarlet letter has been painted “C” for cheaters on Houston Astros. It is the punishment that was handed by Major League Baseball (MLB) after illegally stealing the signs in the 2017 World Series Championships. There were several other sentences that the team incurred, but the biggest of all is that they breached ethical policies in sports. The paper will focus on the problem and ethical analysis of the Houston Astros cheating scandal.
Keywords: MLB, ethics, teleology, value theory, relativism, deontology, intuitionism
Current Event – The Houston Astros Cheating Scandal
In November 2017, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drelich of the Athletic raised the alarm about Houston Astros cheating. The article reported that Houston Astros utilizes electronic signs during the 2017 World Series Championship season. Shortly after the report had been published, MLB started an investigation, and Commissioner Rob Manfred released the results on Jan 13, 2018. The investigation proved that, indeed, Houston Astros electronically stoles the signs in 2017 and part of 2018 seasons. The club under numerous legal proceedings was fined $5 million and was disqualified from the second-round draft of 2020 and 2012. The perpetrators of the theft GM Jeff Lanchow and Manage A.j Hinch were suspended for one year from the league, and the club later fired them.
As highlighted above, Astros utilized a camera that was placed in the middle of the field to cheat on the signs during the play. The personnel would watch feed in a halfway between dugout, and clubhouse and could instead relay the signs coming to the hitter by hitting a garbage can. During the investigation, it was proven that Astros create a technique utilizing illegal systems to create signs so that a runner on the second base could relay the warning to the hitter. Astros could whistle and clap to send the symbols from the dugout before setting on banging a garbage can (Barna, 2019). During the investigation, it was confirmed that throughout the 2017 seasons, the club stole the signs.
The cheating scandal was a huge deal because it was against rules, both written, unwritten, and old-schools teaching. Baseball undertook essential steps of banning this type of behavior that started from 2019 seasons. It limited live-feed access available to a team without any-inhouse camera between foul poles. MLB has since warned all clubs again any form of high-tech cheating in regular or postseason. Houston Astros received five significant penalties, which include the suspension of Manager A.J. Hinch for one year. GM Jeff Luhnow and GM Brandon Taubman were also suspended for one year. The club forfeited the first and second-round draft pick for the subsequent 2 years, and they were fined $5 million. The players, however, received immunity from MLB with an exchange of maximum cooperation during the season (Osborne, 2017).
From the analysis after the investigation, it was concluded that all teams tried to steal the signs because it is part of the game. The main problem is how the signs are being stolen. Houston Astros took the cheating scandal very far because all the players were receiving specific alerts such as whistles and claps. There are many circumstances where the teams have used technology and went unreported or undetected. Houston Astros was the latest club that was exposed, and undoubtedly it will not be the last.
There exist ethical issues surrounding the Houston Astros cheating scandal. Ethics exist in each field and specifically in sports. In the basic terms, ethics is knowing what is right from wrong. The main ethical issue is that the Houston Astros as a team knew that signs stealing scheme are morally wrong (Epstein & Osborne, 2017). Everyone, including the manager, was aware of the plan, and as noted in MLB investigations, the players were also informed. MLB argued that all the players were interviewed and admitted that they knew the idea was wrong and not a fair competition, plus it violated MLB rules.
The cheating scandal can be analyzed using ethical theories such as relativism, teleology, deontology, intuitionism, & value theory. Relativism is a concept that states that there is no absolute truth in ethics, and what is morally right or wrong differs from one individual to another or from one community to the other. From the investigation carried out by MLB on the Houston Astros cheating scandal, it is clear that they were aware of the signs stealing scheme, thus against the values of ethical relativism. The principal value of relativism is truth, and with universal baseball rules, there is no variation from what is morally wrong or right in one team or the other. All the teams should subscribe to one crucial rule in sports, fair competition.
Intuitionism is an ethical theory that states that essential truth is known intuitively. The intuition of a person knows something because it is accurate and should guide a person in each action. It helps a person to understand fundamental morals. About the Houston Astros cheating scandal, the management and players knew that stealing signs is not good, but they were honest that indeed they stole. In this case, their intuition was a pretty powerful philosophy because, at the end of the day, they retain their title, and the players received immunity as long as they cooperated during the investigation.
Value theory, on the other hand, is concerned and asks how and why individuals value somethings such as a person, idea, objects, and so forth. Moral and natural goods are also related to value theory. It also deals with theoretical questions about goodness and values that cross the line between metaethical and normative ethics. In reference to Houston Astros, they valued the trophy more than anything else, and they were ready to cross the line of ethics and make the history books being rewritten. What sounds like a harsh punishment was not a punishment at all because they retained the title, and only two men lost the jobs.
Teleology is an ethical theory that argued that there is a moral obligation from what is right and desirable. Deontology, on the other hand, is the fundamental standard for an action to be morally right, and the actions are independent of the good or bad being generated. From the cheating scandal, it is clear that they subscribed from the teleological approach that the end justifies the means. The teams were willing to do the best for the majority and sacrifice only two individuals that were suspended. The teams clearly selected to follow the utilitarian approach in doing their business as compared to normative ethics. Although the reputation is ruined, the end for sure justified the means.
Each company tends to incline only one ethical approach over others. For Houston Astros, the reputation will take a long time to build when they lost it overnight. They are usually many consequences for each action. Ethics in sports was implemented to create a playing field that people will compete based on their skills, ability, and hard work. It was also designed to protect billions of people, both fans and players, in the future. Doing the right thing is moral in sports, and from this, Astros can be argued that they changed the truth of the game.
- Barna, A. G. (2019). Stealing Signs: Could Baseball’s Common Practice Lead to Liability for Corporate Espionage? Berkeley Journal of Entertainment and Sports Law, 8.
- Epstein, A., & Osborne, B. (2017). Teaching Ethics with Sports: Recent Developments. Marq. Sports L. Rev., 28, 301.
- Osborne, B. (2017). Legal and Ethical Implications of Athletes’ Biometric Data Collection in Professional Sport. Marq. Sports L. Rev., 28, 37.