Anyone who heard any baseball news during spring training 2020 had heard news about the cheating scandal by the Houston Astros. There is a book coming out this summer about the scandal that is an excellent read for a complete look at the scandal. Here is my review of “Cheated”.
“Cheated: The Inside Story of the Astros Scandal and a Colorful History of Sign Stealing” by Andy Martino
Baseball, professional, history, Astros, cheating
June 8, 2021
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
No matter how closely one follows Major League Baseball, one has heard about the recent cheating scandal involving the Houston Astros and their use of technology in order to steal signs from the catcher to the pitcher. The cheating then went to various methods to communicate the pitch that would be coming to the batter, the most publicized of which was banging a trash can to tell the batter about the next pitch. This book about the scandal and also the history of sign-stealing in baseball is an excellent look into the characters and multiple angle of this story.
While the plot of the book is about the Astros and sign-stealing, there is some interesting side stories. One I found particularly interesting was about the commissioner’s office and why they – both Bud Selig and Rob Manfred – weren’t so invested into investigating this heavily until well after the Astros used this scheme to win a World Series in 2017 and two American League pennants in three years. That was, in author Andy Martino’s words, because Selig was more interested in bringing down Alex Rodriguez to clean up Selig’s unkind legacy on steroids and then when Manfred took over, he put out rules to let teams know that violations of the rules to use electronic method to steal signals would not be tolerated. He believed that self-policing with these rules would work – as we saw, it did not.
The book also nicely covers older cheating events, from the early 20thcentury to the famous 1951 playoff game between the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. He makes a great comparison of Ralph Branca, the Dodgers pitcher whose pitch to Bobby Thompson was signaled before Thompson hit the legendary homer, to players who also felt cheated out of important wins like Clayton Kershaw and Aaron Judge. Passages like this make the book very enjoyable for not only the Astros sign-stealing.
But, as one might expect from the title, Martino does his best work when writing about the main people in the cheating scandal – Astros manager A.J. Hinch, coach Alex Cora (who later managed the Boston Red Sox to the World Series title in 2018 but was later fired from that team for his role in the Astros scandal) and Carlos Beltran, who was a player in the last year of his 20 year career with the 2017 Astros (who, like Cora, also lost a managerial job over the scandal when he was fired by the New York Mets just months after being hired). Their roles were just a part of the story that brings out the investigative side of Martino extremely well. Not only does he investigate and report on several different aspects of the scandal, he writes about this much like an espionage novel or an episode of investigative television shows with all the twists and turns, various accusations thrown out by so many people and eventually the illegal activity being exposed and those punished will get their just deserts. Or, in the case of that last statement, the punishment merited to be correct by the commissioner as many in the game felt that the Astros deserved more. Even this aspect is covered in the book in the epilogue with a segment on the harsh treatment the Astros received during spring training in 2020.
After reading several of the books that came out soon after the 2017 Astros won the World Series praising how they made tearing a team down to the core and rebuilding with analytics the model of how to win a championship, this is a completely different approach to that Houston championship and one that should be read by any baseball fan.
I wish to thank Doubleday for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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