Is the MLB fair with their punishments towards players?

image courtesy of MLB.com

Baseball is well known as America’s pastime and is filled with a rich history of not only legendary moments but scandalis ones as well. In the 121 years of Major League Baseball they have dished out lifetime bans for reasons such as shaving points, throwing games, steroid use and many others. Some of the most famous scandals include the 1919 “Black Sox” throwing the World Series, Pete Rose’s lifetime ban for gambling and most recently, the Houston Astros stealing signs. It all goes back to the 1860s when baseball was played for the first time in an organized fashion. Wealthy and prestigious men started baseball clubs to compete against each other. This attracted a very wealthy fan base. The fans and most of the people performing in the games placed bets. Eventually, it got out of control and even went into the creation of the MLB in 1901. After the prolific “Black Sox” scandal in 1919, new commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was set to make the MLB a scandal free league. He set the rule that there would be a lifetime ban from baseball for anybody involved with the team that placed bets on their games. The creation of this rule has led to unfair punishments in the MLB because Commissioner Landis fell under the hasty generalization fallacy that all players were involved in the Black Sox scandal and the false cause fallacy that there would never be a gambling or cheating scandal again in baseball. 

The scandal of the 1919 Chicago White Sox was never investigated deeply enough by the new commissioner Kenesaw Landis. The 1919 White Sox through the World Series that year which is inevitable, however, not every player was involved. The two players that did not take part in the scandal were Shoeless Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver. Rather than taking the money that they were offered to purposely lose the World Series, they played their hearts out and did everything they could with the rest of their teammates wanting to lose. Then, “Landis moved to set down a statute of limitations on past charges and a code of conduct for players in the future” (Klem). Because of this mentality, Landis made sure that all members of the 1919 White Sox had suffered. This cemented the legacies of Shoeless Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver as cheaters. Landis was quick to decide that all players on the team were involved but based off of their .375 and .324 batting averages alone, it was apparent that these two players were not guilty. The rest of the team had hit a combined .183 which is by far a team low for a World Series. If Landis had investigated the scandal more thoroughly rather than making the hasty generalization that all players were involved, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver could be sitting imortaly, in Cooperstown today. 

Pete Rose is one of the greatest to ever play the game, but is not in the Hall of Fame because Landis believed that the creation of his rule would exonerate baseball from cheating and gambling scandals forever. The game is still corrupt with many teams and players finding new ways to cheat and get an edge on the competition. Pete Rose did not cheat, take steroids, steal signs or do anything similar to that, yet he still sits atop the all time hits list, completely legit. Pete Rose is guilty of gambling while he was a manager of the Reds after his playing career was over. In his novel, “My Prison Without Bars,” he confesses to gambling but added that he had only bet on the Reds and never against them (History.com). Although a punishment is warranted for his actions, a lifetime ban for the all time hits leader is certainly harsh considering he is not eligible for the Hall of Fame and bet for his own team. Commissioner Landis assumed that his rules would be the standard for every participant in Major League Baseball for years to come. He believed that if he had drawn the line early in baseball’s existence, it would prevent all scandals and be a fair way of punishing players. Landis is guilty of the false cause fallacy because he believed that his one rule would be the solution for all of Major League Baseball’s scandals. 

Since the MLB has not set the standard for other forms of punishment, the 2017 and 2019 Astros consequences were miniscule to those of the past. Although the Astros scandal was not about gambling, it was certainly a much greater scale. The Astros deliberately cheated by using advanced technology to steal signs. Hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports. The best hitters only succeed 30% of the time. With less than 300 milliseconds to react to a series of different pitches that can be upwards of 105 miles per hour and all the way down to 75, knowing what pitch is coming is a major advantage. The Astos first used the method of banging a trash can when they saw the catcher put down an offspeed sign on their outfield camera. Just two years later, there is evidence of them using buzzers underneath their jerseys. Altuve told his teammates not to rip off his shirt after his walkof in 2019 that sent the Astros to the world series. Not only that, there are multiple pictures of Astros Players such as Josh Reddick, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman with bulges in their shirts. Even with clear evidence of the Astros cheating to win the 2017 world series and make it to the 2019 one, their punishments were much less harsh to prior scandals. Their owner and coach each received 1 year suspensions, the organization was fined $5 million and they lost their next two first and second round picks. The players all received no punishments and the Astros head into the 2020 season with an almost identical roster. Major League Baseball is at clear fault because they did not alter Landis’s original rule, to update to today’s game. It is hard for commissioner Landis to predict the technology in the future, but to believe that this one rule would stop all baseball scandals forever is a clear example of the false cause fallacy. 

Although the MLB is at fault for not amending Landis’s original rule, he is guilty of the hasty generalization fallacy as well as the false cause fallacy for assuming that all members of the 1919 White Sox were involved in the scandal, and for believing that all baseball scandals would be solved fairly because of his new rule. The stats of the 1919 World Series clearly prove that Buck Weaver and Shoeless Joe Jackson were not part of the scandal that their teammates were. Landis tried to act too quickly and gain publicity by banning the entire team from baseball for life. Pete Rose was in the wrong for betting while participating in baseball, however, his punishment of a lifetime ban is invalid. As the all time hits leader, he is not in the Hall of Fame and every player on the Astros has suffered no punishments despite conclusive evidence that they cheated to win a World Series. Pete Rose recently spoke out about this, and has asked for reinstatement again. After the ruling of the Astros punishment, the MLB has a chance to reset the standard for punishments. If none of the Astros players suffer for what they have done, then Shoeless Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver and Pete Rose all deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Over the years, the MLB has given unfair punishments because they have refused to amend rules that go as far back as 1920.

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