Coming off two World Series appearances in the past three seasons, including the championship in 2017, the Houston Astros are being severely disciplined for stealing their opponents’ pitching signals. The purpose and benefit of intercepting and rightly interpreting the signals between an opponent’s catcher and pitcher is knowing what type of pitch the batter can anticipate.
One of the biggest advantages that a pitcher has over a batter is the element of surprise. For me personally, a pitcher throwing any type of pitch at me at a speed of 90-plus mph would have the element of surprise. Perhaps sickening shock would be a more accurate term in my case.
The Astros case is a very embarrassing scandal for major league baseball, having spent the last years trying to restore integrity to the game after the steroid era. Singer Billy Joel declared that “Honesty is such a lonely word/Everyone is so untrue.” Perhaps he was referring to romantic relationships, but I think it’s more likely he was referring to sports.
In the obsession to win, advantages are sought for a competitive edge. Cutting a corner or two is one way to make an edge. Most major sports have had at least one cheating scandal involving unethical recruiting, payments and bribes, ineligible players, performance enhancing drugs, illegal equipment or dirty play. And that’s just at the middle school level.
Looking into my crystal ball I predict the following cheating scandals will occur in the future:
Curling: While the curling stone looks like a cross between a landmine and a tea kettle whose weight and dimensions are carefully measured before each match, a team from Russia was disqualified and sent home from the 2022 Olympics when their rock was discovered to have tiny hidden brakes underneath that could be activated by a pocket remote control used by the Russian coach. Said one Olympics official, “When a fast sliding stone comes to a sudden stop with a screeching sound, it raises some questions.”
Cycling: With all the attention on checking cyclists for use of illegal performance enhancers, a Russian team was caught using disguised motorized bicycles during the 2024 Tour de France. Said one race official, “When a man on a bike is zipping up the steep Pyrenees without pedaling, it raises some questions.”
Ski Jumping: The official world record for the longest ski jump is 832 feet set by Stefan Kraft during competition in Vikersund, Norway. In 2023 the International Ski Federation suspended a Russian skier during the world championships when it was discovered that he was wearing a hidden jet pack underneath his ski suit. Said one official, “When a skier is still in the air when he crosses the finish line at the bottom of the hill, it raises some questions.”
Spelling Bee (I’ve never thought of spelling bees, poker matches, or dog shows as sports but apparently they are since ESPN reports on them.)
Nevertheless, in 2028 a 6-year-old Russian contestant was disqualified from the famed Scripps Spelling Bee in Washington, DC, when it was discovered that she was wearing a hidden ear piece and was being given the correct spellings by a KGB agent sitting in an unmarked van equipped with sophisticated audio technology and parked across the street from the competition hall. Said one Scripps official, “When someone has trouble leaving a large room because they can’t read the word 'exit' but correctly spells 'chrysanthemum' and 'antelapsarianism' — it raises some questions."
Softball: In 2025, the Russian women’s softball team was disqualified from an international tournament and put on five years probation after it was discovered that the U.S. pitcher was being given a “juiced” ball by the Russian umpire behind the plate. Said a tournament official, “When a bunted ball goes over the centerfield fence for a homerun, it raises some questions.”
Archery: In 2030, a Russian archer was disqualified from the world championships in Oslo when a forensic inspection of his equipment uncovered target missile microchips in the arrowheads. Said one official, “When a contestant trips and falls getting into position because, as it turns out, he’s legally blind; and when said blind contestant hits the bullseye 10 out of 10 times with his eyes closed, it raises some questions.”