The record books for the 2017 World Series will always have an asterisk by the entry.
 
The Houston Astros, baseball’s 2017 champion, had developed a system of stealing signals for pitches coming. Then, through banging on a trash can, the batter would know what pitch to expect.
 
The scandal rocked the sport and has turned ugly on social media.
 
The aftermath costs three major league managers their careers. (Two were players who had been hired as managers for other teams.) The embarrassment and anger that settled over the Bayou City is an emotional hurricane. It slammed the city hard and left it reeling.
 
When you get some distance from the scandal, the obvious question is, why?
 
  • Were they not that good a team? (I suspect they were.)
  • Were they the only ones who cheated? (I suspect they weren’t.)
 
But there is a lingering question that filters into every person’s life. Is it worth it?
 
How will any of the players explain the asterisk to their children and grandchildren? How can they move on when a reporter’s questionable probe touches that nerve?
 
From now on, the Astros will not be associated with winning but with cheating. They will be the butt of every whispered curt comment. Even if they win on their own in the future, many will ask, “did they cheat?”
 
Reputations and lives lay in ruins.
 
The truth is most people engage in the form of criminal thinking. Criminals believe, “I can get away with it. The Astros accepted that. So do cheating spouses, shady accountants, and nervous managers. The only modern sin is getting caught.
 
American society has sunk into the dung pit of utilitarian ethics. The ends justify the means. Many businesses (such as social media giants) embrace it. Political campaigns live by it. Journalists, under pressure for the “scoop” will “stoop” to get it. It comes as no surprise that it made its way into America’s pastime.
 
I hate that the story lingers in the fog of sports pages and ESPN. Instagram posts by rivals ridicule but give no remedies. The story is important, but the lesson is more important.
 
And it’s not about baseball. It is about life.
 
Yes, one is “don’t cheat.” But that is too simple, too trite, too Puritanical.
 
Our perspectives must change.
 
Nothing is worth the asterisk. The Astros took the chance. Baseball’s most significant prize was too much a temptation, too important. An edge…any edge, whether moral or not, was what they took. It looks good accepting the championship trophy, but the smoldering wreck of the 2020 baseball season tells another story.
 
Is what you are after worth it? Is it worth embarrassment and the destruction of reputations that may never be rebuilt? Those are questions every person needs to stop, breathe deeply, and ask before taking a step.
 
Before you act, ask, “How will I explain it?” The truth is you have to explain behavior in some way. I’ve known marriages that have imploded, and when asked “why,” there is only silence. Assume the worst. What’s the reason you did it? If your mouth is cotton-dry, step back.
 
Will I be able to take responsibility for it? One of the issues for the Astros was not only the cheating but how they took responsibility for it. At a press conference opening 2020 spring training, the owner said, “it didn’t make any difference.” As a society, we train ourselves in mea culpas, which have no mea and little culpa. We are sorry you feel bad. I am sorry you took it the wrong way. But no one is sorry for their deeds.
 
If you plan to do wrong, prepare to eat crow. And bring the biggest fork you can and put the excuses and accusations away. Do as David did when confronted about Bathsheba. “I am the man.”
 
For me, it is a tragedy. My kids grew up in the Houston area watching the Astros. We went to the old Astrodome and watched the likes of Nolan Ryan and Craig Biggio. It’s sad to see a good team become a bad joke.
 
I doubt anyone will ever watch the Astros play another game without the doubt in their minds. That’s the problem with a tarnished reputation. You don’t polish it up. You live with it.
 
That’s why you should consider any action you will take under the umbrella of what would my mother say?
 
It’s tough to live with an asterisk by your name. Do what you can to avoid the mark of shame.