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Did the Houston Astros Go Afoul?

The Houston Astros baseball club is under investigation for cheating during the 2019 World Series. The club is rumored to have used a hidden camera behind center field to be able to read the signs that the catcher was giving to the pitcher. The Astros are also rumored to have done the same during the 2017 World Series. They allegedly then used that information to signal to the batter what the pitch may be by beating on a trash can. According to comments issued by various members of the Astros, the cheating scandal was started by a couple of team members, a hitter, and a coach. The coach was trying to help the hitter, and they justified their questionable decision by stating that they believed other teams were already "up to no good." Major League Baseball (MLB) prohibits the use of electronic technology to steal signs. The Astros are under investigation, but they aren’t the only team to have been involved in a large-scale cheating scandal. This could point to even more teams using technology to cheat the game. Sign-stealing has always been around. Going back to 1951, the New York Giants used a telescope in center field. The New York Mets were accused of using a camera in 1997, and the Philadelphia Phillies were accused of using binoculars in 2011. The Chicago White Sox used to use a light in their scoreboard to signal the type of pitch to the hitter. In 2017, the Boston Red Sox were accused of using an Apple Watch to steal signals as well.

A key ethical issue is whether or not cheating is okay if competitors are cheating as well. Rules are established in sports and business to create a fair and equal opportunity for success. Rules provide explicit definitions of acceptable conduct. On the other hand, principles are specific and pervasive boundaries for behavior. They are guidelines and thresholds that apply to all areas of conduct. Cheating in baseball by using electronic technology violates a specific rule, and also violates the principle of sportsmanship and fairness expected by society. This is especially true for America’s favorite pastime. In the case of MLB, the Commissioner needs to investigate and enforce the rules, and provide the leadership to support sportsmanship to ensure a level playing field in the sport.

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