Baseball needs more cheating


Photo courtesy of Newsweek

Daniel Graham, Staff Writer

Baseball’s reign as America’s favorite pastime ended fifty odd years ago, and for a good reason: it is the most boring sport imaginable. Yet all of baseball’s woes could be remedied if the MLB would provide more support for the game’s greatest tradition: cheating.

I played baseball (really, tee-ball) for a few years in elementary school, and I was a fan of the sport for a few more years after that. I was a Kansas City Royals fan, and there was a string of summers during that time when I attended every Friday and Saturday home game for their Triple-A affiliate, the Omaha Storm Chasers.

During that time, I enjoyed the sport a great deal. As a player, I could keep up with it, because it was slow-paced and demanded little athleticism—though that did not mean I was any good—and as a fan, I could eat and talk and not pay much attention for most of the game, save for the key plays. In other words, I was not all that interested in sports at the time.

Now that I have grown more interested in other sports, I wonder why I ever enjoyed baseball. It is a game where players spend three hours in the sun trying to hit a small round ball with a stick. If you can do this more than 30 percent of the time, you are great at it. Unlike soccer or hockey, there are almost no other aspects of this game. That’s it. You try to hit a ball and then run in a circle.

This is where cheating enters the scene. All of the best baseball stories involve cheating. There are stories of teams stealing signs, using foreign substances to alter pitches, and even going so far as to put cork in their bats to make them lighter (which, by the way, doesn’t appear to have any positive effect on the batter’s ability to hit the ball).

Many of these stories are as incredible as they are stupid. In 1994, umpires caught the Cleveland Indians’ Albert Belle using a corked bat. They confiscated the bat and went on with the game. As they continued, Belle snuck back to the visiting manager’s office, climbed into the ceiling, and crawled through it to the umpire’s dressing room, where he recovered the corked bat.

Belle returned to the game without incident, and the Indians ended up winning it. Afterwards, however, his scheme was discovered, and he was suspended for the heist.

Others of these stories are impressive for the wide variety of cheating methods. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the 1896 Baltimore Orioles, who used every trick and dirty play of which they could conceive, in order to win games. They grew the grass high in their outfield and hid extra baseballs in it; they pretended to be hit by pitches; they snuck around the bases when the umpire wasn’t looking; they shaved their bats for better bunting; their catcher would drop pebbles into the shoes of opposing batters; the list goes on.

This isn’t to say that there hasn’t been cheating in baseball in recent years; the Houston Astros were fined $5 million and had draft picks revoked for stealing signs in the 2017 World Series, and just last year there was yet another scandal surrounding pitchers using foreign substances to affect the ball.

These are some of the few times the MLB has broken into the mainstream headlines recently; they’re certainly the main events to which I’ve paid attention. That’s because cheating is fun, exciting, and most important, cheating gives us someone to hate, and isn’t that what sports is really about?

Never is the sports world been more united than when it has the opportunity to hate a cheating team. The Astros showed this a few years ago, but the New York Yankees have been the exemplar for years, for everything from sign stealing to steroids.

The MLB should be encouraging this kind of behavior, not penalizing it. This is what makes baseball fun. It might be ugly, but it’s true.

Of course, fans will still want justice for the wrongs of the cheating teams and for that, I propose the simple solution of allowing other, law-abiding teams to cheat against the cheaters whenever they face each other. Thus, we add legalized cheating to the game. Anything short of serious physical harm should be fair game.

Want to hide balls in the outfield? Go right ahead. Want to trip players as they round the bases? Be our guest. Want to switch the other team’s bats out with baguettes like in the movie Everyone’s Hero? Kind of weird, but go for it.

The only request I would make is that the cheating teams break the rules in ways that make the game more fun. I don’t want to see a game where the pitchers are using foreign substances to throw better, because that means even fewer batters will get on base, and that’s boring. I do, however, want to see a game where a team inserts a dog into their starting lineup, Air Bud-style, because that sounds awesome and hilarious.

When people say that baseball isn’t what it used to be, I’m sure this is what they mean. If the MLB really cared about their sport, they’d have encouraged cheating from the start. Instead, they’re willing to watch what was once America’s favorite pastime die in dull agony.