- Members of the 2017 World Series-winning Astros admitted the team electronically stole pitching signs
- The punishment from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred could extend beyond simply losing draft picks
- Houston’s 2020 World Series odds have slumped in the wake of the scandal
The last month has been one to forget for the Houston Astros. First they lost the World Series to the underdog Washington Nationals, then the legitimacy of their 2017 World Series win was thrown into disarray following the allegations of electronic sign stealing that was brought to light in an article in The Athletic.
As a result, the defending American League champions have seen their 2020 World Series odds fall behind those of the team they beat in the American League Championship Series, the New York Yankees.
2020 World Series Odds
|New York Yankees||+600|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||+800|
|Boston Red Sox||+1400|
|New York Mets||+1400|
|St. Louis Cardinals||+1800|
Odds taken Nov. 21.
Four members of Houston’s 2017 championship team admitted in an article in The Athletic that the team used a camera in center field to steal signs during home games. The camera relayed images to a screen located between the clubhouse and dugout, and the signs were relayed to the batter by someone hitting a garbage can.
"The Astros should lose their draft picks in the first 10 rounds of the 2020 draft [and] the first and second round picks for the four years after that. Manager AJ Hinch should be suspended for half the year."
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) November 20, 2019
In short, this is against the rules of baseball, and Major League Baseball enacted specific rules this season to prevent this kind of electronic espionage.
Commissioner Rob Manfred seems hell bent on coming down hard on the Astros if any transgression is uncovered, and has said that he has the authority to impose disciplinary measures beyond those set out in baseball’s codes of conduct.
In the past, those have included lifetime suspensions, yearlong suspensions, financial fines, and the forfeiting of draft picks.
Shaking Up the League
While Houston can only sit and await the outcome of the league investigation – Manfred has promised a decision by Christmas –the investigation has been expanded to include the 2018 and 2019 seasons as well.
Suspensions? Fines? Lost draft picks?
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) November 21, 2019
But while the Astros may be twisting in the wind to a certain extent, other contenders in the American League are likely feeling pretty good about the whole situation, none more so than the New York Yankees.
Beaten in the ALCS by Houston in both the 2017 and 2019 seasons, the Yankees have benefitted from the Astros’ misfortunes at the sportsbooks, with the Bronx Bombers now the 2020 World Series favorite at +600 odds, while Houston has fallen to +700.
How Bad Can It Get?
In all honesty, it seems a strange decision to drop the Astros’ World Series odds in reaction to this scandal. Obviously, if a pitcher like Gerrit Cole decides to walk away from the team as a free agent, that has far more impact on their World Series odds, particularly after his epic postseason, where he went 4-1 in five starts.
"Think of how many careers have been affected now because guys think they are throwing the right pitch… and Astros' hitters are turning around and tattooing them." @AlPawlowski & @JLEWFifty voiced their take on the sign stealing controversy surrounding the Houston Astros. pic.twitter.com/oZTQmz8H3U
— FOX Sports Cleveland (@FOXSportsCLE) November 20, 2019
But Cole has yet to decide where he is going next, and if he returns to Houston, it makes for a very different Astros rotation heading into 2019, no matter what MLB decides as a fitting punishment.
If Cole stays with the Astros, Houston will be every bit a World Series contender once again next year, and the sliding odds only give them more value.