Over the last few years, we’ve seen frequent accusations of hypocrisy supported by braindead false equivalencies, including sometimes by people with talented brothers. “The Dodgers and their fans are so upset by what the Astros did in 2017,” the intellectually dishonest cries go, “but they have no problem having Mookie Betts and David Price and Joe Kelly, whose Red Sox did the same thing in 2018.”
These arguments, of course, are so easily refuted a six-year-old could do it. What the Astros did in 2017 bears hardly any resemblance to what the Red Sox did in 2018. Houston’s cheating was conceived, planned, and orchestrated by the players themselves, making every player in that dugout either a cheater or an accessory to cheating. On the other hand, the cheating by Boston was carried out by one rogue video-room employee, and while the players benefited from it, they had no way of knowing (and no reason to suspect) anything untoward was happening.
Okay, a six-year-old probably wouldn’t say “untoward,” but this stuff isn’t hard to understand. Those cries of hypocrisy are just the addled whimpers of weak wills and minds.
Of course, if the Dodgers were to hire the guy who actually did the cheating for the Red Sox? Now that would merit some deep introspection. But obviously, they’re not gonna—
J.T. Watkins, suspended by MLB in 2020 for his involvement in video sign-stealing scandal, has left Red Sox to take position w/ the Dodgers. Watkins will help LA with its hitting game planning. His hiring came with strong recommendations from both J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts.
— Sean McAdam (@Sean_McAdam) January 3, 2023
Well, crap. I guess it’s introspection time.
There are plenty of ways to justify this hire, of course. His role won’t be the same as it was with Boston, so there’s no chance of a recurrence of the violation. Also, the impact of Watkins’ cheating was far more limited than that of the Astros. The commissioner’s report said:
Unlike the Astros’ 2017 conduct, in which players communicated to the batter in real time the precise type of pitch about to be thrown, Watkins’s conduct, by its very nature, was far more limited in scope and impact. To the extent Watkins used in-game video to decode sign sequence information, the information he obtained was the cue for the actual pitch’s sign among the many signs flashed by the catcher when a runner was on second base. The information was only relevant in circumstances when the Red Sox had a runner on second base (which was in 19.7% of plate appearances league-wide in 2018), and Watkins communicated sign sequences evidently decoded from the in-game feed in only a small percentage of those occurrences.
It’s easy to say “cheating is cheating,” but there are degrees of cheating just like there are degrees of breaking the law. An employer refusing to hire a violent criminal while willingly hiring someone who shoplifted as a teenager would not be accused of hypocrisy; he’d be correctly assumed to possess the ability to understand nuance.
Watkins has apparently been working for Boston in the two seasons since his suspension. The fact that they kept him around after the suspension — and that Betts and Martinez vouch so strongly for him — suggest that he has something valuable to bring to the table. Is it valuable enough to justify the potential backlash?
Look, I’ve advocated, both here and on my podcast, for the Dodgers to pursue Carlos Correa on the grounds that he’s the best shortstop in baseball. Correa is in the league, so he’s going to play for someone, and it seems silly to me that the Dodgers were the only team morally obligated not to sign him. So I don’t feel bad not being upset about them hiring Watkins — who, unlike Correa, was actually punished and “did the time” for his cheating — since they can be nearly positive the cheating won’t happen again.
I don’t believe in “win at all costs,” but I believe a guy who paid the price for his cheating and isn’t going to do it again deserves a job if he can help the team win.
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