Why Aren’t Any Astros Players Getting Punished for Cheating?

The Astros’ cheating scandal has been a major story this offseason, thanks in part to Major League Baseball taking months to complete its investigation before finally handing out penalties. This gave fans and writers plenty of time to contemplate the punishments.

Many people, especially fans of rival teams, called for players to get lengthy suspensions, including lifetime bans from the MLB. In the end, management got harsh penalties, but no players faced suspensions. Here’s why.

A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow punished

Commissioner Rob Manfred’s punishments hit Manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow hard. Both received suspensions from the MLB until the day after the 2020 World Series. Then, Astros owner Jim Crane came down even harder on Hinch and Luhnow.

In a press conference the same day, he announced that both men were dismissed from the Astros for the sign-stealing scandal. The firings took many people by surprise, but it showed that Crane wants to start fresh. He hoped to forget the scandal that has called into question the legitimacy of the Astros’ 2017 World Series title.

No Astros players were disciplined by Rob Manfred

When Manfred released his nine-page report detailing the results of the league’s investigation, he did not discipline any players. The only athlete he named in the report is Carlos Beltran, who retired following the 2017 season in question.

The lack of discipline for players like Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman upset the people who called for them to face lengthy suspensions. It also led to people calling out Manfred for going easy on the players.

People came up with all kinds of theories in an attempt to explain why the players got off scot-free. Some naturally came up with unlikely explanations that fall into the realm of conspiracy theories. But Manfred may have had legitimate reasons not to suspend any players from the 2017 team.

The MLB players’ union and uncertainty led to no player suspensions

The major reason why the players avoided penalties is likely because of the Major League Baseball Players Association. The MLBPA is often considered the most powerful players’ union in American sports.

The collective bargaining agreement between the MLB and union likely makes it difficult for the league to suspend players without having hard evidence that proves beyond a doubt that the player did something in violation of the league’s rules that warrants a ban. In this case, it was probably hard for Manfred and the league to prove this to the degree necessary to suspend them.

The league may have also agreed to give the players immunity to ensure they gave investigators truthful testimony when questioned. Then there is the issue of how many players may have faced a suspension if Manfred began punishing players.

If most of the team’s players were complicit in cheating, the league can’t suspend the majority of the team. And if most players were involved, the union wouldn’t allow Manfred to pick and choose certain players to penalize while others get away with it.

Then there’s the case of players who were on the Astros in 2017 but are now on other teams after leaving Houston via trade or free agency. Suspending them would hurt their current teams, who had no role in the cheating. When considering all of these things, it was hard for Manfred to justify suspending any players.

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