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OC Register: Whicker: No winners in Spyball scandal, not even the Dodgers

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The Houston Astros were not brought to justice.

General Manager Jeff Luhnow should have been exiled for five years. Their share of national TV revenue should have been revoked and reallocated among the other 29 clubs. They should have lost the entire 2020 and 2021 drafts, not just the first two picks.

All their 2020 games against the Angels should be canceled.

Okay, too harsh.

Given all that, spare us the petitions on behalf of the Dodgers.

They did not lose the 2017 and 2018 World Series because Alex Cora was sitting in the other dugout with his two-way wristwatch, autographed by Dick Tracy.

They began losing Game 5 in 2017 because they felt it was important to pitch Brandon Morrow into puddling exhaustion, and then because Kenley Jansen walked a batter and hit another before Alex Bregman’s game-winning single.

They began losing Game 4 in 2018 because they felt it was important to remove Rich Hill with a cruise-control 4-0 lead.

In the 2017 Series they hit .205. In the 2018 Series, they hit .180 and their final six hitters struck out.

The Dodgers lost four home games in those Series. Both ended in Dodger Stadium with rivers of champagne engulfing Mitch Poole’s visiting clubhouse floor. Unless the Astros and Red Sox were able to tote cameras and monitors into the ballpark unnoticed, they probably did not have the electronic edge.

Maybe the 2016 Cubs hacked the Dodgers’ computers and rearranged the data to show that Chicago was 0 for 249 lifetime against Joe Blanton. Maybe the 1985 Cardinals employed remote-control hypnotism and, upon two claps from the third row, convinced Tom Lasorda to pitch to Jack Clark. Get it all out.

Sign-stealing is an art when done by eyes and ears, instinct and observation. Ultimately, the team that leaves its signs unprotected is leaving its car unlocked. It deserves its fate.

The Washington Nationals weren’t naive. According to the Washington Post, they used maximum security in the playoffs, even against the innocent Dodgers, whom the Brewers accused of cheating their way through the 2018 NLCS.

At times Washington used “outs-plus-one,” meaning that if there were two outs, the third sign by the catcher was the activator. Houston scored 11 runs in four home World Series games and lost them all.

Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer cited audio that registered the Astros’ trashcan-banging throughout the 2017 season but also showed that the data did not translate into more production.

If it was a foolproof system, all hitters would welcome the information. The MLB report says some Astros did not. They try to keep their minds clear up there. Even the act of processing something as simple as one-if-by-land, two-if-by-sea can get in the way.

It’s the same principle that clouds the steroid controversy. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will probably fall short of the Hall of Fame threshold on Tuesday because of steroid suspicions. The Mitchell Report, commissioned by MLB, noted that such household names as Chris Donnels, Larry Bigbie and Marvin Benard also purchased or had experience with PEDs. Those drugs were not an elixir, not any more than the mega-wedge on those golf infomercials.

Hall of Fame voters do not have to be swayed by that. They can point to “criminal intent” or “consciousness of guilt,” even though MLB did not have a PED policy until 2006. In the Astros’ case, MLB’s warnings were explicit. They ignored those warnings because they felt immune from baseball’s ethos.

If there is one positive to be fished out of this cesspool, it is the likely curtailment of video dependence. A team that wants to challenge a call should do it immediately, instead of waiting for its own Captain Video to give thumbs up or down.

There is much criticism of pitcher Michael Fiers, who blew the whistle. Maybe it was borne of his resentment from 2017, when Houston left him off the playoff roster, but it also took courage. Fiers pitches for Oakland, which plays three series in Houston. Because of the times in which we live, he will need Secret Service-level protection from the moment he lands.

The Astros themselves can anticipate a season from hell. At each stop, they will confront a severe inquisition, plus massive fan abuse. The bright spot is that MLB attendance should rise, for a change.

At the Astros’ fan fest, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve offered glorified no-comments, but there’s no need to withhold remorse at this point. They were in on it.

Will the Astros or the Dodgers be more successful at turning victimhood into 100 more wins? Both will feverishly play that card. Neither has the right.

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