Yesterday, six-time All-Star and 2010 National League MVP Joey Votto made an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show to talk about his home run streak, the social obligations that go on when a runner reaches first base, and how the game of baseball has changed during Votto’s career, among many other topics.
One of those other topics was the Houston Astros. Specifically, Patrick asked Votto whether or not it was time to let the whole 2017 Astros’ sign-stealing scandal go.
A resounding “Yes!” from the Reds’ first baseman.
Now, I respect Votto as much as anyone can. The man is an almost sure-fire Hall of Famer, and he’s a living relic from mid-2000s baseball — someone who still believes batting average and making contact is important. For most of his career, Votto had been a “just reach base” type of hitter, and the fact that he has not only survived but thrived with those beliefs in an era that has almost exclusively given into “three true outcomes” ideology, has been incredible to watch. The reason I’m saying all this is because I want to make it abundantly clear that I don’t have anything against Joey Votto before I break down exactly why Votto is wrong about the Houston Astros.
I will heckle the Astros as much as I like, thank you very much. So long as Altuve, Correa, Gurriel, or Bregman are on that team, I will continue to heckle them as I damn well please.
I understand Votto’s argument against heckling the Astros.
“The idea that [the Houston Astros] were the only ones doing it...it baffles me.”
I’ve said for a long time that I believe other teams participated in their own sign-stealing scandals. At the very least, we know the Boston Red Sox were penalized for stealing signs in 2018 — the same year they won the World Series. However, the extent of their cheating system revolved almost entirely around one of their video operators (who has since been banned from MLB games for life) and, at least in Rob Manfred’s eyes, wasn’t as egregious as the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Don’t get me wrong. I can’t stand the Red Sox for this conduct, and I believe they should’ve faced harsher punishment, but that doesn’t take away from what the Houston Astros did. Same goes with the New York Yankees and their unopened letter, as well as the allegations against the Dodgers and Brewers. Yes, accusations have been thrown out, but nothing has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
That being said, even IF the Dodgers, Brewers, and Yankees are all proven to be guilty of stealing signs, that does not take away from what the Astros did. That just means that it’s our duty, as fans, to boo those teams and players just as much as we’ve been booing the Astros. It doesn’t matter how many teams were cheating. That doesn’t make the cheating any less abhorrent. “Oh, but it’s okay, because everyone was doing it.” If every student cheated on their SATs, does that make it okay? No! Stop using that as a defense. That’s a non-defense. That’s admitting guilt and then trying to say it’s okay because you were just following along. Does that argument ever work when you get pulled over for a speeding ticket? “Officer, I know the sign says 65, but everyone was going 80.” He or she won’t follow that up with, “Oh, golly gee! I guess you’re right. You’re free to go.” It’s an awful argument. You know it’s an awful argument. Stop using it!
Votto does say something interesting though. He says he tends to believe Altuve when he says he wasn’t involved in the sign-stealing. Sure, Altuve has not come out and said that he participated, so until he does, we shouldn’t heckle him for participating. However, at the very least, we know that Altuve knew about the scandal and did nothing to prevent it from happening. So, at best, Altuve was an accessory to cheating.
I love the game of baseball. I also love maintaining the integrity of the game. I can’t stand the players involved in the Red Sox cheating scandal just as much as I can’t stand those involved in the Astros’ scandal. If the Dodgers, Brewers, Yankees, or any other teams — including my San Francisco Giants — are outed for stealing signs in the past, you can rest easy knowing I will tear into them just as hard as I am the Astros. I wholeheartedly believe that fans should despise the Red Sox as much as the Astros. Any player or team that cheats deserves all the hate, jeers, and heckling thrown their way. So, no, Mr. Votto. I will not stop heckling the Astros. If you think I ought to just let the scandal go, well maybe they should’ve thought of all the hate they’d get before they started cheating in the first place.