I am a huge baseball fan and so I watch with interest the constant iterations about the sign stealing scandal. Before I delve into options let’s consider the basic premise. While sign stealing is a constant part of the game, use of technology to analyze and communicate information to the dugout and then to the hitter is a new twist on an old approach. It seems this is a new level of problem, and one that was actually mentioned by the league in a memo. The trickle of player reactions likely requires some response form the commissioner or there will be significant amounts of vigilante activity that they will be forced to punish. Does the league want to punish those responders and not the admitted offenders? Or do you want the Hall of Fame voters to be the ones doing the policing of players again?
The point here would be that most of the conventional solutions are no longer an option based on the way the league already handled it. What would they be anyway?
Strip the title
Would this be feasible? I really do not know. The NCAA takes away wins from teams and other accolades even though we all saw what happened on the field. I would not give it to anyone else, you would just say there was no champion that year. I think it seems unlikely that people will go for this though it would impact the team and the players since they would not be able to say they were champions. Tell the team it cannot sell world champion merchandise and that they cannot take down the banners.
These were already ruled out, and my understanding is the CBA would prevent suspensions in this case. This would seem to be the easiest solution, and would be something you could stagger. You apply it to all as well, since nobody came forward to say it was wrong. Since it is closed off I look for more creative solutions. Look, you could also ban them for life like you did for Black Sox (obviously not a great parallel since cheating to win and throwing a game are different things).
With somewhat standard and easy punishments off the table, you have to turn towards other, less obvious approaches. You can let the opposing players police it all themselves but that seems likely to spiral out of control. I offer up two ideas with the theory that the punishment should fit the crime. What is the crime, stealing signs from catcher to pitcher.
Announce the pitch
Make the pitcher and catcher announce the pitch before they throw it. The Astros are forced to announce every pitch for every batter for each team faced for one entire game. Literally make them say “fastball” or “slider” before they throw it. To force this to happen, if at any time they do not throw the announced pitch it is an automatic walk. If ownership really believes that sign stealing was not a competitive advantage like they said at the opening of spring training, prove it.
No signals between catcher and pitcher
Again, trying to make the punishment fit the crime let’s not allow any communication between pitcher and catcher on the field. Nor can the manager make any signal for the defense or anything of that sort during the game. They can talk in the dugout but there can be no signals for pitches between the catcher and pitcher. This actually seems like one that keeps a reasonable amount of competitive balance still in the game. Maybe a few more wild pitches of passed balls, but not a huge number of missing players which should keep fans happier.
Baseball mishandled this whole thing, much like they seemed to do during the steroid era. However there is more baseball talk on sports radio than usual at this time of year so maybe they are not too upset? The issue is the biggest stage for the sport was, to some extent, devalued and you did nothing really. You fired a manager and a GM? I think people do not really think that was enough, and the comments made after seem to indicate a lack of appreciation for how angry people are.