Sports: Cheating

In sports cheating is supposedly frowned upon. I follow golf, baseball, pro football, college football, and some basketball. I don’t consider NHL hockey a sport, and the players in hockey, really can’t cheat, because there are no rules. If anybody cheats in hockey, it is probably the referees, since they are supposed to call penalties on both teams about the same number of times. What a league! The other sports have all had some kind of cheating scandals or individuals who are not playing by the rules. Each sport seems to handle cheating a little differently and we will delve into that as we go through each sport. There are different ways of cheating, and some sports seem to cheat more than the others. Golf being an individual sport, makes the cheating narrow down to one person rather than an organization.

Let us start with football because most of football’s cheating is off the field. With the instant replay rules as they are, this did bring out one element of cheating on the field. That is where a player knows he did not catch a ball and the team lines up quickly before the officials can review the play and overturn it. The NFL sees no reason to curb this kind of cheating. The only other thing that happens on the field may be guys trying to get away with holding on the offensive line, but there is not a lot of other things you can do that will affect the outcome of the game. Football more than makes up for this with all the cheating that goes on off the field. In pro football, there is trying to spy on practices, giving out false injury reports, and spying on coaching signals during the game. We also know about deflate gate. In college football it is more about trying to keep football players academically eligible, by getting other people to take tests and write reports, while the player does not even attend class. College football is plagued with many recruiting violations as well. We will look at punishments for these infractions at the end of the blog.

Golf has had its ups and downs when it comes to cheating. Golf is considered the sport of honor, where many professionals have called penalties on themselves, that have cost them tournament victories. Golf is the sport where ignorance seems to be a defense for cheating. This has led many pros to be penalized, literally the next day, from somebody calling in seeing a rule broken. Many a time a golfer has gone to bed thinking that he shot one score only to wake up, go to the course and find out that he has been penalized 2 strokes for a rule he broke while on TV. Thank God, no other sport does this. Could you see teams having to go back the next day to take up the game from the point that the obvious rules infraction was missed. You cannot help but wonder how many rules have been broken by golfers not on TV. This may have not affected who won the tournament but making the cut and a final paycheck would have to be affected. There are players on the tour who have been accused of cheating. Patrick Reed currently is the poster boy for cheating and every time there is any questionable ruling involving Reed people think that he is in the wrong. There have been other players that have had the cheater moniker put on them over the years, but Reed is the bad boy today.

Basketball is a sport where there is an art to getting away with fouling and not getting caught. There have been articles written on how to do this in various publications. It is college basketball that has really had the most rules broken in trying to keep players and allowing them to play with little or no academic participation. The list of college basketball programs that have broken NCAA rules is endless. There have been countless examples of players and referees who have helped gamblers by giving information and shaving points. In fact, point shaving seems to be the popular way to cheat in basketball. Your team still wins but does not win by the point spread and everybody that bets on your team loses. Falsifying test scores seems another way for players to continue their college basketball careers.

But no sport cheats on the field as much as baseball does. It is such a big part of the game, that it would not seem like baseball, if cheating, or trying to cheat to get an edge was not happening. The biggest cheaters in the game are the pitchers. From the spit ball to the Vaseline ball, to putting something on the ball to help with “gripping the ball”, pitchers have done everything they could to keep the batter from hitting the ball. The spit ball was once a legal pitch. When baseball finally made it illegal, they still allowed players that were throwing the spit ball to continue to throw it. In other words, they were grandfathered in to continue to throw the pitch. Another method used by pitchers to help ball movement was to scuff the ball. Now this is not to say that it did not take a special skill to throw these illegal pitches because if it was easy everyone would have thrown them. For the pitchers who could master these substance or defaced ball pitches, wound up having a tremendous advantage over the hitters. The hitters are not angels either. The very first batter that comes up, will dig his feet and eventually obliterate the batter’s box so he can stand outside of the box. They have also used corked bats which can give them an advantage. The steroid era in baseball could easily be called the cheaters era. These chemically enhanced players set season records that will most likely never be broken, unless someone can invent another performing enhancing drug that cannot be detected and has little or no side effects. If it does ever get invented, you can bet that baseball players will be lining up to take it. Then there is sign stealing. The Houston Astros took it to the next level. The higher ups were punished but the players were not. Many thought that other teams used the same video methods that the Astros used but for some reason were not revealed or punished. It does make you wonder about some of these major slumps that some players have had since the sign stealing scandal was brought to light. Let’s face it if you know what pitch coming, it really makes hitting a lot easier.

This leads us to what have the ruling bodies done to help curb this propensity to cheat? The answer to the question is almost nothing. When something is done , it is usually to the wrong party. When it comes to the gambling scandals, which is a form of cheating, those individuals are breaking the law. There have been many people sent to jail for those violations. But when cheating is just breaking the rules within the game not a whole lot happens. The ruling bodies of the sports involved dish out some punishment but most of the time it is of minor consequence. None of the suspected cheaters on the PGA tour have ever been suspended. The PGA is so closed mouthed about what their players do on and off the course, it’s impossible to tell how much cheating or drug use is going on in that organization. This squeaky clean image they try to present is far from true in my view. Fortunately for the tour, most of their bad boys went to the LIV tour where they belong. Perhaps the worse ruling body of any sport is the NCAA. They have no trouble dishing out punishment for rules violations. Instead of punishing the people that committed the rules infractions, the coaches and the alumni, they punish the “PROGRAM”. This only affects the athletes on the team who in most cases have had nothing to do with the infractions. The coaches do not lose their jobs unless they are fired by the university and in most cases will find a job with another team. NCAA never bans anyone from coaching for a period of time for cheating. Baseball did not suspend any players for the cheating scandal. For all the players that have these inflated statistics due to steroid use, none of their seasonal records have been removed from the record books. It might be going too far to say that the ruling bodies of sport condone cheating, but they do not really do anything to stop it.

Pirates, Mid-February Report, The Unkown.

Spring training has started, and the beginning of the season is not far behind. Barring any kind of major injury problems, the Pirates should contend for the division title. There is not a lot of support for this opinion on the local scene and none on the national level. The most optimistic thing I have read about the Pirates in the national media is that the Pirates will be “pesky” in 2023. There are 3 unknown factors that will help determine how this season will turn out. I will take them in what I consider the least unknown factor to the most unknown factor.

The first unknown factor is will management try and win games this year. Last year there was no question, despite many people refusing to believe this, the Pirates lost games on purpose. I documented this all of last year and the Pirates accomplished their goal by getting the no. 1 pick in the lottery and delaying free agency until 2028 for many of their young players. It would be shocking if management did this again this year. They seem to have a major league roster this year but some of their most recent minor league contract signings could indicate that if things don’t go well in the first 60 or so games that they will have plenty of Josh Van Meters around to ensure that the season turns into a complete disaster. For that reason it is imperative that the Pirates get off to at least an acceptable start by playing around .500 ball going into June. I don’t think the Pirates are going to lose on purpose like last year, at least for the first 2 months of the season.

Next, will we find out what kind of manager Derek Shelton really is?. Last year he did what he was told and that is to contribute to losing games. He did the same thing in 2020. What did he do? He started strange lineups, made even stranger in game moves and at times “seemed” to fall asleep at wheel, during critical moments of many games. The Pirates of 2021 were a team in kind of a transition phase to start the season. They still had some veterans on the team, and I believe that management had some doubts that this team needed a total tear down. There was this brief time in 2021 where lineups were more consistent, Shelton seemed to be managing the bullpen well, and in game strategy made sense. However, as 2021 progressed, it became apparent that this team was going to need the total rebuild and the rest is history, with 2022 becoming the ultimate tanking season. One thing is for sure, this will be Derek Shelton’s make or break season. I will not be shocked no matter how it goes, but if I was forced into making a decision on what I think will happen, I think it will turn out that he is the man to lead this team to the promise land.

The biggest unknown is how will these Pirate players respond to playing meaningful games in August and September. The Pirates made it to the playoffs as a Wild Card for 3 straight years from 2013 to 2015. The 2012 Pirates were in the hunt and on July 22nd had a record of 54-40 to be .5 games out of first place. It was without a doubt a new experience for many of the players. This team did have some veterans that had some experience being in a pennant race, but it did not help. The Pirates had the worst record, 25-43, of any team in history that had been this far above .500 that late in the season. The Pirates gained from that experience, making the playoffs the next 3 years, including winning 98 games in 2015. If this team gets to that point this year, who knows how they are going to respond. Again, this team does have some veteran presence that has experienced being in a pennant race, but that is no guarantee. This is by far the biggest unknown factor for this 2023 season.

The next report will be mid-March when the spring training games will be in full swing and the opener about 2 weeks away. We should have a good indication of who will be going up north with the team by then. I had a small hope that one of the young catchers might be making the trip but that was dashed when the Pirates picked up all those garbage catchers in the last 2 weeks. Shelton had said as much during the winter meetings in December. I can’t imagine no matter how Henry Davis or Endy Rodriguez perform during the spring games that they will be on the team come March 30th. It will be an interesting spring training to see what team the Pirates will have to start the season.

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