Which MLB Team Would Hurt The Most To Learn Were Cheaters?
The Houston Astros being outed as cheaters during their 2017 World Series run was incredibly disheartening for nearly every MLB fan. Using cameras to steal signs, banging on trash cans, and possibly much more, they violated the integrity of the game and tainted one of the most entertaining seasons in recent baseball history. Heroes of the game like Jose Altuve and George Springer have had their image tarnished and Alex Bregman’s cocky but endearing personality now looks like he’s probably just an asshole. Carlos Correa has still not said anything right since the scandal broke, and owner Jim Crane apologized, but then backed it up with a statement that he did not think it impacted the game. Overall, it’s been terrible, and a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.
However, like most cheating scandals, it is rumored that this may be deeper than just the ‘Stros. Teams including the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Yankees have all been accused of having similar operations set up in their home stadiums but have not been exposed. If it was revealed that 3 of the most popular teams in the MLB have been cheating this whole time as well, it might just break the sport entirely. So, that got me thinking: which MLB teams would it hurt the most to learn were cheating? I have ranked all 30 MLB teams from “Wouldn’t Care” to “Crushing Blow” to see just how much a full-blown cheating scandal would hurt the reputation of the team and its players. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to this list beyond “this was my first thought,” but statistics on cheating scandals are slim, so we rock with what we’ve got. Let’s begin.
Tier One: Wouldn’t Care
30. Pittsburgh Pirates - Their owner doesn’t care about winning, they’ve been bad to mediocre for a long time, and no one would care if they got caught cheating. Might actually boost their reputation to see they were trying to compete.
29. San Diego Padres - One of the best stadiums in the league and some of the best weather imaginable, the Padres still can’t turn the corner. If they were caught cheating it would still be second page news as we would all collectively think “So why did Machado still only hit .256?”
Tier Two: Not Mad, Just Disappointed
(a.k.a Teams who have been so bad lately it would just be sad to learn they were cheating)
28. Detroit Tigers - The Tigers had their moments in recent history, but they have been so terrible the past few seasons that even if they were caught cheating fans would just laugh. Might hurt the reputation of a few big name players (Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez, etc.), but Justin Verlander has already taken the most heat that anyone from those teams could endure, so it goes mostly unnoticed.
27. Baltimore Orioles - Mostly the same story as the Tigers, except with more sadness for Chris Davis. Fan favorite Adam Jones loses some credibility, but the past two seasons would already be punishment enough.
26. Miami Marlins - Giancarlo Stanton’s legacy takes a hit, but the Marlins have had so many other issues and tragedies around their organization within the past few seasons most fans wouldn’t think too much about it. If it turns out Derek Jeter is involved though, they move up a few tiers.
25. Seattle Mariners - The Mariners rarely have things go their way, so if they decided they needed to go the extra illegal mile to make the playoffs I don’t think anyone would be too shocked. Disappointing, but it obviously wasn’t a good enough operation, so not necessarily angry.
24. New York Mets - The Mets have enough going on in their front office right now, cheating is most likely the last thing on their mind. They’re still putting out the fire of the St. Lucie Screwjob, and their World Series appearance feels like an eternity ago. Pete Alonso’s Rookie of the Year award is meaningless, but fans would just give the “lolMets” response to a cheating scandal.
23. Texas Rangers - The Rangers have been solid, but could never get the job done during their best times in the middle of the 2010s. Now, they’re a decent team in the AL, however if they were caught cheating they would already be overshadowed by their AL West Texas Brethren in Houston.
Tier Three: Would Hurt, But Only For One Player
22. Cincinnati Reds - The Reds have not been good the past few years. If they were caught cheating, it wouldn’t have a huge impact on the game at all, but Joey Votto’s reputation as one of the best hitters in baseball would for sure be tarnished, and his choking up on the bat would look a lot less appealing to every youth coach in America. Trevor Bauer also looks like a fool, but he’s only been there half a season so he gets a pass.
21. Los Angeles Angels - I have them in this tier because it’s their best fit, but if it was determined that the Fighting Mike Trout’s were cheating, the repercussions would be devastating. Trout could very well be the best baseball player ever, and if they were caught with an illegal advantage one of the most beloved athletes in professional sports would be dragged through the mud. I don’t even want to imagine it.
20. Milwaukee Brewers - The Brewers are a good team, and I expect them to be back in the playoffs this year, but a cheating scandal would hurt Christian Yelich more than anyone. The production jump since his trade from the Marlins would make sense, and his MVP trophy looks like the Astros’ 2017 World Series (not just a piece of metal @RobManfred).
Tier Four: Would Hate to See It
19. Arizona Diamondbacks - The DBacks haven’t had major success in recent history, but they have consistently been in the hunt. Being in the same division as the Dodgers is a tough draw, but if they were caught cheating it would be frustrating as a fan to see even the most unassuming franchises are up to no good.
18. Atlanta Braves - One of the most exciting young teams in baseball, a cheating scandal for the Braves would be tough to swallow and studs like Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies would have an asterisk by their young careers. They haven’t won anything big recently, so they stay in the bottom half of the list, but it would still be a really unfortunate outcome.
17. Chicago White Sox - Another young up and coming team that has a chance to really make some noise this year in the AL if they can put it together, but getting caught cheating would derail all of that progress. Consistently overshadowed by the Cubs, it wouldn’t cause massive outrage, but would definitely rustle some jimmies.
16. Tampa Bay Rays - The Rays are a scrappy team and were a very welcome surprise in the playoffs last year, pushing the Astros to the brink in the Division Series, but the underdog being a group of cheaters would hurt. That, plus having to play in Tropicana 81 games a year, would destroy the Rays and rile up a good amount of fans.
15. Philadelphia Phillies - Right in the middle of the pack is the Phillies, mostly because it would be impossible to deal with their fanbase if they were caught cheating. Sure, guys like Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins have a hurt reputation and a team with playoff hopes for this season feels the repercussions, but can you imagine Philly going into defensive mode for one of their teams? Frightening.
14. Oakland Athletics - One of the more historic franchises in the MLB, the A’s image of the Moneyball underdogs goes straight to the toilet. The Bay Area is very upset, and a lot of fans across the country change their favorite movie back to Field of Dreams.
Tier Five: Sufficiently Salty
13. Kansas City Royals - The past couple seasons have not been kind to Kansas City, but at one point in recent memory they were the small-ball experts with an elite bullpen carrying them to a World Series. If it came out there was some funny business going on during that run, there would be a lot of frustration amongst fans, but if it was just a recent endeavor it wouldn’t have the same outrage.
12. Toronto Blue Jays - There has been a lot of excitement around the Blue Jays the past few seasons. A couple playoff runs, one of the most iconic moments of the decade with Bautista’s bat flip, and probably the most powerful young core in the game, but a cheating scandal derails all of that. Not winning a World Series actually helps Toronto in this case, but the early career bunch in charge now faces the brunt of a lot of angry fans.
11. Minnesota Twins - The Twins hit a LOT of home runs last year. In fact, they set the record for most home runs in a season by a team, but if that was the result of an illegal operation the backlash would be serious. As still a relatively small market team that hasn’t won anything noteworthy in a couple decades, they still don’t crack the top ten, but people would not be happy.
10. Colorado Rockies - Before the entire state of Colorado attacks me, I would like to state that I do not think playing in Coors Field every home game is a major advantage and that the effect tends to be overblown in the media. However, it would certainly not help their case if they were discovered to be cheating in Coors as well. Larry Walker just made it to the Hall of Fame, the last thing Rockies fans need is this to bring them back down to Earth.
Tier Six: Pissed Off
9. Cleveland Indians - Had they pulled out Game 7 versus the Cubs in 2016, they probably work their way into the top five, but an AL Pennant and a lot of AL Central titles is still enough to have people very angry if they were caught cheating. Francisco Lindor is as likable a superstar in the game and Terry Francona is one of the most well-respected managers of all-time, so a scandal would be both surprising and would piss off a lot of fans.
8. San Francisco Giants - The 2010s were partially dominated by the Giants, resulting in a lot of people turning on the team from the Bay. The past few years haven’t been as successful, but a scandal would still have a lot of people fired up. You don’t get to live in San Francisco, win the World Series three times in ten years, and still cheat without making a lot of fans very angry.
7. St. Louis Cardinals - It would be entertaining to watch how many of the “best fans in baseball” defended a scandal, but it would still be incredibly disappointing to see the Cardinals get wrapped up in another scandal after they hacked the Astros a few years ago. A couple World Series titles in the 2010s would look meaningless, and the Cardinals would solidify themselves as a top three most hated team in the MLB.
6. Chicago Cubs - It’s crazy to think the Cubs World Series championship was already 3 full seasons ago, especially because the Cubs have stayed competitive ever since they hoisted the trophy. But, as a high profile team in a large market with a recent World Series, the Cubs being caught cheating would be a huge issue. Fans across the nation would be outraged, and guys like Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Anthony Rizzo’s reputations take a huge hit. It would be bad, but not quite as bad as the next five teams.
Tier Seven: Crushing Blow
5. Washington Nationals - Watching the Nats turn their season around and make one of the best playoff runs of all time was a reminder as to why baseball is so great, but if the sudden change of play was due to a cheating scandal baseball fans would be devastated. It would delegitimize the entirety of the last World Series and would have the entire league in a tough spot, but they’re not a massive fan base like the rest of the teams on this list, so they stay at #5.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers - Not only would it look REALLY bad after MVP Cody Bellinger’s statements about the scandal so far, but the Dodgers being caught cheating would be really hard to swallow. They were a couple games away from being back-to-back World Series Champions, and a couple outs from having another chance last season, but it would all mean nothing. Having a team as popular as the Dodgers go down would be a brutal blow for baseball and would have a lot of people incredibly angry.
3. Houston Astros - The only entry that we actually have evidence for, the baseball world was not happy when the Astros scandal broke, and it has only gotten more angry with every time they have opened their mouths since. Few teams could cause more of an outrage, and no one will ever handle more issues in a row worse than the ‘Stros.
2. New York Yankees - No matter what happens, the New York Yankees will always be America’s team and the most popular in baseball. The most hated group of players before the Astros imploded, if the Yankees were caught cheating baseball would suffer. Countless guys would have their reputation tarnished, and as fun as it would be to see the Yankees go down, it would be just as infuriating. But, they haven’t won a World Series in a while, so they miss out on the number one spot.
1. Boston Red Sox - Huge market, recent World Series Champion, already vastly unliked around baseball, and the team that would hurt the most if they were found to be cheaters. Boston is not known for handling their teams in scandal very well, and if their beloved Sox went down like Houston it would be absolute anarchy. Yankees fans would feel screwed, the nation would be pissed, and the Dodgers would have another reason to be absolutely furious. The Red Sox being caught would be the worst crushing blow to Major League Baseball.