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Astros scandal dwarfed by MLB-wide sticky substance use

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 28: Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. speaks to the media during a press conference prior to game four of the 2017 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Minute Maid Park on October 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 28: Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. speaks to the media during a press conference prior to game four of the 2017 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Minute Maid Park on October 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The Real Culprit

If you’re looking for someone to blame in all this, you should be looking beyond individual players or teams. As has been the case throughout history, especially in the past 30 years, the league itself is to blame for any cheating scandal that comes along. In this case, we should all be looking directly at Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Foreign substance use has been going on for a century or more, most notably by Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry using Vaseline, K-Y Jelly and even his own saliva. The league has, in almost all cases, looked the other way. But now that the use of sticky stuff has become so pervasive, it’s fair to wonder why Manfred hasn’t done anything about it.

More from Climbing Tal's Hill

He freely admits that MLB’s declining offensive numbers are a concern. But instead of addressing what is clearly the biggest factor behind it, he instead focuses on ridiculous, gimmicky rule changes like larger bases and banning the shift, which are being tested in the minor leagues. Instead of actually enforcing the rules already on the books, he’s looking at making new ones.

But again, this is par for the course. MLB mostly ignores cheating until it gets to the point that it can no longer avoid confronting it. Once steroids came onto the scene, they gradually took hold to the point that countless players were using them — more than we’ll probably ever know. Bud Selig looked the other way while Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa shattered home run records, largely because it increased fan turnout after the 1994 strike.

Once the league could no longer pretend it wasn’t happening, it finally cracked down. But in the process, guys like McGwire, Sosa, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jose Canseco and a few others ended up taking the fall. Their reputations and Hall of Fame candidacies were completely destroyed, all the while Selig made it into Cooperstown anyway.

The same happened to the Astros. Their sign stealing scheme became public knowledge because Mike Fiers ratted them out, so Manfred had no choice but to confirm it and to punish the franchise. But we know very little about what other teams were doing, even though all but the willfully ignorant know it was going on in clubhouses across the league. Manfred wanted it that way, and the Astros were a convenient patsy.

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