MLB urged to strip Astros of 2017 title over cheating scandal

3 min

Los Angeles (AFP)

Major League Baseball faced calls to strip the Houston Astros of their 2017 World Series crown on Tuesday as the prospect of further sanctions loomed in the cheating scandal that has rocked the sport.

Baseball was left reeling on Monday after Astros skipper A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were banned for 2020 and then sacked by the club's owners.

The Astros were also fined $5 million (4.49 million euros) and stripped of draft picks in 2020 and 2021 after a scathing report by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred which detailed an illegal sign-stealing scheme used by the team in 2017.

Although the penalties were among the most severe ever issued by the league, several commentators on Tuesday said they did not go far enough, with some calling for the Astros' 2017 World Series win to be voided.

"The title is illegitimate," ESPN pundit Stephen A. Smith said "They should be stripped of their World Series crown. This is cheating.

"The evidence was so profound that one hour after the ruling came down, those dudes were fired."

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Bob Brookover also argued for the 2017 title to be vacated.

"While Manfred's penalty was harsh, he could have sent an even stronger message by stripping the Astros of their 2017 World Series title," Brookover wrote.

"Make them take down the banner at Minute Maid Park and vacate all records of their title."

- 'Scar across the sport' -

The Los Angeles Times' veteran columnist Bill Plaschke said the Los Angeles Dodgers had been "cheated" out of the 2017 World Series by the Astros.

"The Dodgers were jobbed out of a championship that would have ended a 29-year drought, and what is MLB going to do about that?" Plaschke wrote.

"The Dodgers won't get to claim the title. That damage has already been done. That parade has already been lost. But the Astros should be forced to hand the Commissioner's Trophy back to Commissioner Rob Manfred right now, vacate the title and forever leave that space in the record books as empty as the organization's integrity."

The Washington Post's Thomas Boswell meanwhile said the Astros cheating in 2017 compared to the most notorious scandal in baseball history, the Black Sox scandal of 1919, when eight members of the Chicago White Sox took bribes to throw the World Series.

"This scandal is a perfect illustration of why cheating in professional sports is so bad," Boswell wrote.

"It ruins everything. There is no way to fix the damage. And that scar across a sport's visage is permanent, as with the World Series 101 years ago that is still known by just two words: Black Sox."

The fallout from the scandal is also expected to claim another high-profile name, with Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora bracing for severe sanctions for his role in the sign-stealing scheme.

Cora, an assistant coach at the Astros in 2017, was repeatedly named in Manfred's report on Monday as one of the ringleaders of the sign-stealing.

No punishment was announced on Monday for Cora, who guided the Red Sox to the World Series title in 2018, because investigators are still probing separate sign-stealing allegations involving Boston.

But the Boston Globe meanwhile said the Red Sox should take the initiative and sack Cora without delay.

"The Red Sox need to fire Alex Cora now. Yesterday if possible," Globe commentator Dan Shaughnessy wrote.

"Don't wait for MLB to tell you what to do. Just do the right thing."