Carlos Beltrán, the New York Mets and their fans may breathe a collective sigh of relief. Spring training in Port St. Lucie, Florida, looks like it will be controversy free — something that seemed uncertain a few weeks ago.
On Monday, Major League Baseball handed harsh punishment to the Houston Astros, whom it found to be illegally stealing signs in 2017. It is the decision the baseball world — and because of Beltrán’s alleged involvement, Mets fans — awaited for two months.
To be clear, Beltrán was named in the league’s report: “Approximately two months into the 2017 season, a group of players, including Carlos Beltrán, discussed that the team could improve upon decoding opposing teams’ signs and communicating the signs to the batter.” But he avoided punishment.
This is how MLB made an example out of the Astros:
- A one-year suspension for Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow
- A one-year suspension for Houston manager A.J. Hinch
- Forfeiting first-and-second-round draft picks in both 2020 and 2021
- A $5 million fine (the maximum fine that can be given)
- Former Astros assistant general manager placed on baseball’s ineligible list
That’s it. Nothing about Beltrán, who spent the 2017 season with the Astros. Houston owner Jim Crane fired Luhnow and Hinch about an hour after the league announced its punishment.
Carlos Beltran played an integral part in the Astros sign-stealing scheme, according the MLB's investigation. (Photo: The Associated Press)
Around a week ago, ESPN reported that MLB’s punishment would not include Astros players. But to see that become fact had to be refreshing for Beltrán and the Mets. They are finally in the clear, though Beltrán will probably need to explain himself come spring training.
"Assessing discipline of players for this type of conduct is both difficult and impractical," Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "It is difficult because virtually all of the Astros' players had some involvement or knowledge of the scheme, and I am not in a position based on the investigative record to determine with any degree of certainty every player who should be held accountable, or their relative degree of culpability."
In other words: The manager and general manager are responsible for what happens under them. They'll take the fall as such.
Q&A: What we know about the Astros scandal
WHAT'S NEXT: MLB investigates the Red Sox, Alex Cora
The Mets successfully avoided any shrapnel from the bombshell story that has dominated the baseball world over the last two months (unless they decide to discipline Beltrán themselves).
The Mets hired Beltrán in early November. It felt like a cause for celebration as a fan-favorite came home in hopes of managing the team into contention. But everything came into question when Beltrán’s name was brought up as having been a ringleader in the sign-stealing system in which the Astros used a camera in center field that fed video to a monitor in the tunnel steps from the dugout.
He was part of it, though. The Mets must be careful. Because Beltrán was named, those around the league will likely keep a close eye on Beltrán and the Mets. They must be 100 percent clean.
This saga might not be over. There are pundits who believe many teams use electronic sign stealing. If that’s true, MLB’s work isn’t done and the non-offenders will need to be on their best behavior while the league figures out who else will be disciplined.
Beltrán is lucky he was only a player in 2017. This can simply be a lesson to him about how serious MLB is taking all of this.
Added perspective: Alex Cora, Houston’s bench coach in 2017, is about to get hit hard — you would think — because he’s now wrapped up in another sign-stealing scandal. A week ago, reports surfaced that the Red Sox, whom Cora now manages, illegally used their video replay room to communicate signs to baserunners in 2018. MLB is still deciding on his punishment, but even without the Boston situation, Cora would have likely been disciplined for his role in the Astros cheating.
Beltrán, on the other hand, will get to manage his ballclub from day one. He can focus solely on baseball because with the investigation complete. Instead of a possible suspension, he can worry about building relationships and guiding the 2020 Mets, who could be poised to contend.
Yes, he will need to answer questions about this. But that's a minor task in comparison to serving a suspension.
The main lesson to take from all of this: Cheating will not be tolerated. The Astros are a talented team and a forward-thinking organization, but they’ll certainly be set back in some ways by MLB’s punishment. Other clubs should be wary of suffering the same fate.
Had Beltrán been disciplined, it would have also affected the Mets. But he slid by as others took the fall, which allows the Mets to glide into spring training without a worry.
Email: [email protected] Twitter: @justinctoscano
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