Chicago Cubs: Red Sox, Astros marred by sign stealing scandal
The Cubs’ quiet offseason pales in comparison to what transpired Monday, with the Astros and, soon, Red Sox marred by a sign-stealing scandal.
The past few months have proved frustrating for Cubs fans. In the middle of a competitive window and with countless holes on their roster, ownership has mandated the front office cut the baseball operations budget to get under the $208 million luxury tax threshold.
Not only is Theo Epstein standing pat with his current team, but he’s actively shopping some of the team’s biggest stars, including former National League MVP Kris Bryant and two-time All-Star backstop Willson Contreras. That’s been a tough pill to swallow – especially given the team’s lackluster showing in 2019 and second consecutive September flame-out.
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But with a new manager in David Ross and a revamped front office, the Cubs are sticking to their guns, saying they’re focused on winning this year. Time will tell, but after Monday’s news regarding the findings of Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Houston Astros, it all pales in comparison.
MLB suspended Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for one year, stripped the team of their first and second-round picks for the next two years and levied a $5 million fine against the organization.
Shortly thereafter, owner Jim Crane fired both men – a move that may very well turn into a de facto lifetime ban. The Astros were celebrated just a few short years ago and even this fall stood on the brink of being considered a dynasty after advancing to their second World Series in three years before falling to the Washington Nationals.
"“I have higher standards for the city and the franchise, and I am going above and beyond MLB’s penalty,” Crane said. “We need to move forward with a clean slate, and the Astros will become a stronger organization because of this today. You can be confident that we will always do the right thing and will not have this happen again on my watch.”"
Not only has Houston lost a manager, GM and two years of significant draft picks – but that damage may spread to another recent World Series champion in the Boston Red Sox. Former Astros bench coach Alex Cora joined Boston as its manager in 2018, leading the team to a title in his first year on the job. Now, he faces potential punishment that is expected to be ‘harsher’ than that doled out to his Houston counterpart.
Pieces are falling all over the board – and suddenly, the Cubs’ situation doesn’t look quite as bad. Granted, seeing your favorite team stop trying to improve the roster is never acceptable – regardless of what’s going on with other clubs.
But after people showered Houston and Boston with praise in recent years, seeing them fall from the top of the mountain while the Cubs remain unscarred and unblemished is something we can take solace in. Things aren’t great in Wrigleyville, but it could be a lot worse.