While I was reading those tweets a few weeks ago and other responses from MLB and its players over the investigation into the 2017 Astros, one tweet in particular caught my eye.
“I would rather face a player that was taking steroids than face a player that knew every pitch that was coming.” - Alex Woods, LA Dodgers, P
This begs a major question, why do we rate different methods of cheating differently? Why are some methods of cheating considered forgivable or even normal, while others are considered so outrageous that they invoke lifetime bans from the Halls of Fame or from the sport altogether?
Let me lay out a few, well known, cheating incidents in MLB from the past 40 years.
July 24, 1983 - George Brett hits a home run with a bat deemed illegal for having too much pine tar too far up on the bat. He is called out for violating rule Rule 1.10(c) of the Major League Baseball rule book. It is later overturned by MLB. George Brett and the infamous bat are inducted into the Hall of Fame.
1990s - Steroid Era in Baseball. Home Run records are broken numerous times. Players from all across the decade are later indicted and have since then been barred from the Hall of Fame by the BWAA. The Records remain intact.
July 15, 1994 - The Chicago White Sox accuse Albert Belle of having a corked bat. MLB investigates by locking the bat up for the game to be examined laters. Cleveland Indians personnel attempt to steal and replace the bat but are caught doing so. Albert Belle is suspended 7 games for corking. After a go ahead home run in the 1996 ALDS, the Baltimore Orioles again try and accuse him of a corked bat. It was not.
June 3, 2004 - Sammy Sosa is ejected, 2 months after hitting his 500th career home run, after his broken bat is found to be corked. Sosa takes responsibility, but claims it was his practice bat and never was meant to be used in game.
2017-2019 - Houston Astro’s win a World Series and 2 AL Titles, but are found to have been illegally recording signs and transmitting them to the hitters. Minor fines are issued, draft picks are removed, and personnel are fired. Titles remain intact.
All of these events were made famous simply because someone was caught cheating. Some claim it was unintentional, others clearly showed it was intentional and tried to cover it up. Some were severely punished, others were simply given a slap on the wrist, while others were forgiven. Why? How can we determine which level of cheating is worse?
Honestly, this is a question that can’t be answered fully from an athletic point of view, although for athletes and those involved in athletics, it is something we all somewhat understand. Over the last two weeks however, we looked at theological side to cheating and saw that cheating in all circumstances, is always sinful and an act of idolatry and blasphemy. So this raises bigger questions for us in Sports Ministry. If all cheating is sin, is all cheating the same? If all cheating is the same, should it be responded to the same?
Biblically we can find the answer to these questions.
“Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” - Matthew 5:19
“For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of breaking it all. For He who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder. So if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you are a lawbreaker.” - James 2:10-11
Sin is sin. period. If we deny this aspect, even the it comes to cheating in Athletic competitions, we will lose credibility as ministers of the Gospel. All cheating is the same, and if all cheating is the same, then it needs to be responded to the same. And while it sounds harsh to consider a kid sneaking a couple extra bills in monopoly during family game night to be considered the same as Professional Athlete stealing a championship, it is another opportunity for us in ministry to show those in our care the true message of the gospel.
“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” - Matthew 5:43-45
“Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law of freedom. For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” - James 2:12-13
We as Christians and Ministers of the Gospel have an awesome advantage, that the rest of the world does not. We are judged by the law of freedom and mercy. We are able to forgive the harshest of offenses, because we have been forgiven the harshest of offenses. All Cheating is Sin, and all cheating is the same and should be responded to the same. But the way we respond is one of Love, Mercy, and Freedom through Christ, not judgement. Next week, we will look more at the methodology of how we actually can practice this.