I sat down with Cal Poly Swimmers Charlotte To, Caroline Judson, and Garrison Price to discuss their lives as student athletes at Cal Poly.
With spring training bringing in baseball for the year, very few baseball fans are focused on the season ahead. Instead, most of the focus is shifted towards the 2017 season, and possibly the biggest baseball scandal since the Black Sox in 1919.
During the offseason the Houston Astros, who won the World Series in 2017, were caught using technology to intercept the catcher’s pitch signals, allowing the batter to know the pitch that’s being thrown to him.
Baseball fans wanted blood, a hard crackdown on the Astros and their players. Commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t get the memo, and it doesn’t bode well for his career.
Rumors of the Astros sign stealing have been swirling the MLB the past few years, but the rumors began to elevate in early-November when reports surfaced alleging them of banging a trashcan in the dugout for off-speed pitches in 2017. Popular fans like Jomboy were amongst the first to bring exposure to the scandal by searching Astros games for trash can bangs.
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and other MLB investigators stated they were conducting a “really really thorough investigation” into the scandal. “Any allegations that could affect the outcome of a game or games is the most serious matter,” Manfred elaborated.
Baseball is not a sport short of scandals. From the steroid use that plagued the sport in the 90s and early 00s, to the Pete Rose gambling incident and the Black Sox scandal, incidents like these have always been apart of baseball. Sign stealing had simply become the next chapter.
However, in order for the sport to move forward from these scandals the league had to crack down hard on its perpetrators…
especially when they exceed on the highest level, and win the World Series. Fans league-wide speculated player suspensions, bans from baseball, and possibly even having the World Series redacted.
Manfred did none of these things. Immediately after handing down the punishment, the league was in uproar over the lackluster consequences that the Astros faced. With accusations of other teams like the Red Sox and Yankees also being speculated as stealing signs using technology, many fans believed Manfred needed to set a precedent that this was not acceptable. Not a single player involved received a fine for their participation.
Unhappy with the commissioner’s findings, many fans from across the league continued looking into the sign stealing. Databases were built to analyze which Astros players were most and least responsible. Players most responsible included Alex Bregman, recently hired New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran, and World Series MVP George Springer.
However, what few considered as the scandal was unfolding was the impact it had on player’s careers league wide. In most major sports, players are united by their love for the game. By cheating, many Astros players betrayed their brothers, teammates, and friends. Mike Bolsinger launched a lawsuit suing the Astros for 31 million dollars, to be given to various LA charities.
Just a week after the commissioner report, Manfred also announced the possibility of a new playoff seeding, which would include bye weeks, four more teams, and a reality-TV style reveal where high seeded teams would pick their opponent. It was almost unanimously hated after being released, and further made baseball fans question Manfred’s role as commissioner.
As Spring Training has started to take shape, many players were given a chance to speak out on the sign stealing scandal and Rob Manfred.
And then Rob Manfred called the World Series championship a piece of metal.
This solidified Manfred’s disconnection from the sport in many players and fans eyes. For the commissioner to skimp out on punishment for the Astros whilst diminishing the value of the World Series championship, it made him seem unconcerned with the future of the sport. A sport that has suffered in recent years due to poor higher up decisions.
While this story has been in development for a while, it seems to have no real end in sight. The lack of punishment and closure into whether the Astros continued cheating after 2017 has placed immense scrutiny on the MLB. Recently, there has been speculation into the Astros using buzzers this past postseason to relay signs instead of trash can bangs. The Astros have been greeted by press at every turn, which should continue well into the season if Manfred continues to withhold information.
Regarding the whole situation, Lebron James of all people summed it up fittingly.
On January 11, running back Derrick Henry threw a game-sealing touchdown from the wildcat formation to Corey Davis to help the Tennessee Titans upset the championship-favorite Baltimore Ravens. The next day, the Houston Texans tried to run a fake punt against the Kansas City Chiefs to keep them from gaining momentum in a 24-7 routing. They lost 31-51.
Each year, it feels like coaches are utilizing trick plays more and more to keep their offense fresh and unpredictable. Nowhere has it been more evident than in the playoffs this past year. This century trick plays have been quite commonplace throughout the regular season, but recently teams have seemingly been much more willing to open the bag of tricks against their opponents.
And you can thank Nick Foles for that.
On February 4, 2018, the New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl (52), the Eagles executed one of the boldest trick plays ever. On a fourth down clinging to a 15-12 lead with 30 seconds left in the first half, the Eagles motion to call “Philly Philly”.
Quarterback Nick Foles pretends to audible, or change the play at the line of scrimmage, and walks away from the snap. Running Back Cory Clement takes the snap, and shovels the ball to Tight End Trey Burton, who throws the ball to Nick Foles for a touchdown.
Executing a trick play of such complexity is hard by itself, but in the largest game of the year, against Bill Belichick, one of the greatest coaches of all time, in a close game where passing on a field goal could swing the momentum of the game, it takes balls.
“Against an aggressive goalline defense, a play like that can be super effective” former high school Wide Receiver Chris Civilikas said about the Philly Special. “But what a lot of people forget is that the Patriots tried the same play like three minutes before.”
This is also true. With 12 minutes left in the first half the Patriots tried essentially the exact same play, only quarterback Tom Brady dropped the pass that Foles caught. The Eagles ultimately won the game 41-33, winning their first Super Bowl since 1960.
Going back to the Divisional Championship, both the Titans and the Texans head coaches stem from the Patriots and Bill Belichick’s coaching tree. Any given week, a team can be the Titans or the Texans, and it was the Patriots’ turn to be the Texans. That’s the magic of trick plays.