Lindbergh: The endless, self-sustaining sign-stealing scandal

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer on February 18, 2020:

Inconceivable as it seems in the midst of Major League Baseball’s nightmare month, there are at least two ways in which the sign-stealing scandal currently consuming the league could have been a bigger disaster for the sport. First, the ball that became Howie Kendrick’s World Series–winning home run in the seventh inning of Game 7 could have sliced a few feet farther toward the stands instead of clanging off the right-field foul pole. And second, four or more of the 17 BBWAA voters who listed the Astros’ Alex Bregman in second place on their 2019 American League MVP ballot could have bumped him up to first.

If those things had happened, the Astros might have won the 2019 World Series, and Bregman, at minimum, would have been the AL’s co-MVP, making Houston the first team ever to sweep the Cy Young award, MVP award, and Rookie of the Year award. Not only would the Astros—already widely reviled in the wake of the Roberto Osuna trade, assistant GM Brandon Taubman’s clubhouse outburst, and the organization’s ensuing parade of PR errors—have been unmasked as cheaters, but they would have been exposed while they were the reigning world champions, still basking in the afterglow of defeating the lovable underdog Nationals. Counting Boston’s 2018 title under ex-Astro Alex Cora, the legitimacy of the past three World Series would have come into question, and we would have spent the winter watching weeks-old footage of some of the same players who participated in the 2017-18 sign-stealing schemes dogpiling on the pitcher’s mound, spraying champagne, and taking a ticker-tape victory lap through the streets of Houston.

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Originally published: February 18, 2020. Last Updated: February 18, 2020.