The Houston Astros sign-stealing fiasco is without question one of the biggest to ever threaten the integrity of Major League Baseball, as three managers and one GM have already lost their jobs as a result of AJ Hinch and company using a camera network and trash can to alert players like Jose Altuve of incoming pitches. This scandal might be among the most brazen and grimy in MLB history, but is it the worst ever?
Baseball in the 1980s was one of the most sophisticated drug rings in the history of professional sports, as players like Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden saw their legendary primes shortened by the use of illicit substances. Hall of Famer Tim Raines used to play with coke in his back pocket. Playing without amphetamines, known as "greenies" back then, was called "playing naked", as seemingly everyone was trading them around.
The late 1990s saw a major uptick in home runs, offense and broken records, but those came with an unofficial asterisk after it was discovered that several of the game's biggest stars, including Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds, had played while using performance-enhancing drugs and anabolic steroids, which increased muscle definition and, therefore, power. These are still a huge part of the game, but more frequent testing and harsh punishments have certainly reduced their prevalence.
3. Astros Sign Stealing
There's no getting around this. On their way to a championship that brought one of their players an MVP trophy, a professional team used an array of cameras paired with the barbaric means of banging on a trash can to alert hitters of incoming pitches. The fallout from the Houston Astros' blatant cheating isn't fully revealed yet, as the players who led this scheme could be punished further if they were found to bear some culpability.
2. 1980s Owner Collusion
The mid 1980s brought about one of the most blatant attempts to drive down player salary in sports history, and the player's union was worked into a tizzy over it. In free agency, owners could agree to not offer free agents market-value contracts, which led to them re-signing with their old teams at a vastly discounted price. In the 2015 season, for example, 132 players changed teams in free agency. In 1986, there were...FOUR. The union chalks the fight for fairness on the FA market as one of their biggest wins.
1. Black Sox Scandal
The Astros might be bad, but this scandal was so legendary it was literally the reason that the position of MLB commissioner was founded. Several players on the 1919 Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to throw the series against the Cincinnati Reds, possibly out of a distaste for notoriously cheap owner Charles Comiskey. The Black Sox, saw many legends of that era, including Shoeless Joe Jackson, banned from the game for life, and the integrity of the sport forever tarnished.