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Falling From Orbit: The Fallout From The Houston Astros Cheating Scandal

There’s a number of theories out there as to why the general popularity of the sport of Baseball has dwindled over the past couple of decades.

One theory is the steroid scandal from 1998. Another theory is that attention spans for the average fan have dropped. Some go so far as to say the collapse of the market for baseball cards was another strong reason for it.

Regardless of what the reasons are, we are at the forefront of another scandal around baseball. Last week, the MLB dropped the hammer — although some would adamantly disagree — on the Houston Astros for using a camera outside center field to tip-off pitches to the dugout, who would then relay the tip-off by banging a trash can prior to the pitch.

For those of us with a good understanding of the sport, it’s not the first scandal to rock the community and it likely won’t be the last.

Stuck in the past

If sports in America were a family, Baseball would be the Uncle who still wears the same awful cologne he’s worn since 1978. He’s the one who insists the family still goes to the same church every holiday, even if it’s now a three-hour drive away. No one really likes it anymore. Unlike other American sports that value the prosperity and growth of their respective sports, baseball has remained firmly entrenched in its own faded glory.

When the first major scandal occurred in baseball with eight members of the 1919 White Sox taking bribes to throw the World Series, baseball endured a black eye that would change the perspective of both those involved in the sport and those who followed it. Baseball turned the blame on gambling and from that point forward, a stigma was attached to gambling and baseball. Through this time, efforts to gain advantages within the game like sign-stealing evolved as “part of the game.”

When Pete Rose was banned from baseball for being a gambling addict and betting on a wide range of games while managing the Reds, his actions were viewed as the ultimate disrespect towards the sport and everyone associated with it. Around that same time, players and teams were widely stealing signs in a continual cat and mouse game. Players then began looking for even more of an edge and started using performance-enhancing drugs. By the time 1998 rolled around, two players had passed Roger Maris’ home run record in the same season. It wasn’t a coincidence.

While the topic of steroids somehow doesn’t bother baseball folks as much as the idea of a manager having a gambling problem, the forms of accepted cheating within the sport, like sign stealing, have progressed to a point that’s it’s now considered to be unacceptable. Why is that you may wonder? Because it involves Baseball’s second most-hated thing, technology.

So, the old, cranky uncle of the American Sports family hates technology. For close to 20 years now, we have had the technology that can track a ball as it crosses the plate and determine if it was a ball or a strike. Now, I don’t know if baseball is just obsessed with committing itself to the human error and living perpetually in gray areas, but they’ve taken the same stance as an old worker’s union now, protecting the jobs of their geriatric employees from the threat of the robots. Baseball hates technology.

The only reason the pitch clock is catching on at the minor league level is because most fans now can’t afford to spend more than five hours at a ballpark. Otherwise, they’d miss out on the sleep necessary to have the energy to make it to Shoney’s by 6 am the next day.

A solution?

I could go on for hours about how Baseball has failed to adopt technology in numerous ways. However, in regard to the scandal at hand, the solution is… air pods. The big hurdle going forward will be the old heads of baseball and how it’s going to take a Matlock-level investigation to even get the idea to gain traction around the league

As your uncle now stares at his air pods, confused and angry, you’ll want to calmly explain to him how they work and remind him that radio technology is as old as he is and that we used the same technology to defeat the Reds or the Nazis or any number of terms from one of your uncle’s favorite war films.

Okay, so the plan is simple. The other team can’t use the signs if they don’t see them. Alas, if the catcher is wearing air pods and the pitcher also has on-air pods, the pitcher can cover his face with his glove (like ballplayers already do) and just tell the catcher what pitch he wants to throw and where, while the catcher can shake him off and redirect pitch location. That’s really all that needs to be done.

No ancillary issues could crop up as a result of implementing this technology in such a limited capacity. There’s no changing of any rules. Nobody is getting laid off. Your uncle can go back to enjoying his favorite sport and continuing to neglect his wife at family gatherings, relegating her to combing her niece’s hair while watching Matlock reruns.

The ruling on the Astros losing picks and sustaining fines and suspensions at a management level don’t necessarily impact the futures odds as you may expect. Baseball managers have been known to experience equal levels of success and failure, while doing nothing to change their approach to how they manage a team anyways. If a random team had a Border Collie as their manager, you have to admit you still wouldn’t feel totally confident that team would do worse than they did the year prior.

Nevertheless, the Astros are among the favorites to win the title this season. I thought to myself, “I had better consult my MLB betting expert friend, Brantley Hickman.” We talked about how baseball futures bets are fool’s gold in some ways, but they can pay off huge if you’re willing to look beyond the immediate favorites. Typically, it’s not one of the heavy favorites who wins each year anyways, but the odds for the favorites remain close to the same as they were preseason, by the time the playoffs come around.

There’s no good value to be had from that, no matter how you slice it. Just imagine taking the Red Sox at the start of last season. They were one of the heavy favorites and they missed the playoffs. Even if they had made it, their odds likely wouldn’t have been much better at playoff time.

This year, the Braves are the team looking poised for a deep playoff run and one you can definitely get good value from on a futures bet. According to both BetRivers and PlaySugarhouse, the Braves are +1,100 to win the title. The Braves have a slew of All-Stars and All-Star caliber players (7 in 2019), a strong farm system, and an elite starting pitcher who is just 22 years old in Mike Soroka.

They just signed star outfielder Marcel Ozuna and are rumored to be making more trades as they’re profiling as a win-now mode team. Though they’ll need to plug a hole at third, the Braves have one of the best bullpens in baseball and a good mix of talented veterans and youngsters.

Last season, no one expected the Braves to make the jump they did in such a short time, but we’ve seen this before where teams have surprising seasons and follow them up with a few key roster additions to put them over the top. I think the Braves are a great value at +1,100 and they’re likely going to give you a solid hedging opportunity come playoff time.

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