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Wassell: Sign-stealing scandal is on MLB players who have stayed silent

The Astros have been punished by the MLB for using technology to steal signs. (AP)

There’s something – maybe a few things – I don’t quite understand about this sign-stealing saga. Whenever I express concern and surprise over the idea that Major League Baseball players have been using technology to steal signs, I get hit with, “It’s always been part of the game. How is this any different?”

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I’ll give you one big difference: In the case of a runner at second picking up the catcher’s signals and relaying them to a batter, nobody seems to be ashamed to admit to doing it. Maybe players won’t volunteer specific testimony right after the game about having committed baseball espionage, but further down the line, they’ll tell you that it goes on all the time and many even cop to having done it themselves.

When it comes to the situation that has resulted in the firings of Boston manager Alex Cora and Houston skipper AJ Hinch, no player wants to admit to it or even talk about it.

See a difference there? Why is that?

It’s because when they were doing it, they knew it was wrong. Otherwise, why not just come out and admit to what you did like you have before? It’s always been part of the game, right? Actually, it hasn’t. A little gamesmanship that may or may not give you an edge is one thing. Using technology to essentially guarantee success is cheating in the most basic sense of the word. The games were not on the level and what we baseball fans were watching was fiction.

Is it a coincidence that Cora, who was bench coach in Houston before going to Boston and is the man accused of being the ringleader of this whole charade, was is in the dugout for two of the last three World Series champions? Do I believe that the Astros and Red Sox were talented teams? I guess so, but now I’m not so sure that they deserve those trophies.

If you still don’t believe that it had an effect on the game, ask yourself this: Why else would they have continued to do it? Once they saw the results of these activities, it must have seemed impossible to stop. But that’s still no excuse. Someone had to step up and let everyone know that what was going on was flat-out wrong.

At the risk of moralizing, are you telling me not one player or coach in those clubhouses had the guts to stand up to baseball’s iron-clad, protect-the-team culture and point out that what they were doing was not only cheating, but that it would get them in trouble? Nobody even considered the consequences? On top of the fact that it was wrong, it was also stupid. Anytime there’s more than one person involved in something like this, the truth has a way of bubbling to the surface. I’ve heard the peer-pressure excuse and maybe there’s something to that, but even if some players felt remorse, others didn’t. When you know you’re doing something wrong, continue to do it and then run and hide from it when you get caught, what are the rest of us supposed to think?

Now the fans have more questions than answers. One huge question that may never be answered is how rampant this is throughout Major League Baseball. Are we just saps for believing that the one or two teams that got caught are the only teams taking part in technology-for-success activities? Is any baseball fan going to be able to watch a game in 2020 without wondering if the game is above board – if they bother to watch at all?

I don’t want to get into all the other issues that baseball is facing right now because it’s just too depressing. This is a sport that I and most of you grew up watching and playing. I don’t want it to be compromised to the point where we decide we’re just not interested anymore. And I don’t expect that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred will be able to fix everything himself, although a few suspensions – big ones – are probably in order.

This one is on the players. If they’re not going to own up to what they did publicly, they’d better get together privately and make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. If they don’t, that tells me that they’re too arrogant and insulated to care about what the fans think. At that point, I’m gone.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom Wassell on Twitter.

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