On cheating.

This sign stealing ordeal was wrong. What the Astros did in 2017 was cheating. There is no gray area. They knew it. Which is why they kept it hidden. That’s a dead giveaway it they knew it was wrong.

Stealing signs from second base isn’t cheating. Everybody knows the other team is doing it, or at least could attempt to do it. Everybody has the same advantages. It’s on the defense to cover up their signs. 

Plus, there’s another more primal defense. Steal our signs and the next batter gets a fastball in the gut. A broken rib can be a nice deterrent.

But the way the Astros were doing it was cheating. No ifs ands or buts. They were illegally taking a live feed that they were not making available to the other team, deciphering the signs, and passes along that information to the batter.

So, what’s the big deal, right? They were just more clever than other teams. Outsmarting the opponent has always been part of the game.

Except, it wasn’t outsmarting. It was cheating.

Let’s say you sat down to play poker. You notice one player always rubs his neck when he is trying to bluff. That’s good, solid information you can use to your advantage. That’s sign stealing, the right way. Next time you are head-to-head with that player and he rubs his neck, you feel pretty good about your situation. That’s smart poker playing.

Then, say, unbeknownst to every other player, you have a little camera hidden under the table spying on everyone’s cards. During the hand, you look down at your watch to see a display of your opponents’ hands. 

That is cheating. That is what the Astros did. They gained not just an unfair advantage but an illegal advantage.

You can’t take away their championship. You can’t take away what an incredible run it was. You can’t erase the magic of the year.

But you can say it spits tobacco juice on what had been a special year for the Astros. It puts their accomplishment on the same level as Bonds and Clemens and Sosa. 

They didn’t believe enough in themselves, or in the integrity of the game, to resists cheating to get an illegal advantage. 

It’s not tragic. But it’s sad. There is honor in winning fair and square. 

The other way is shameful.