For decades, the Yankees were viewed as cheaters.
They had the longest scouting arms to grab great players, from Mantle to DiMaggio. Then they had the biggest wallet and poached great players from poor teams that couldn't lavish young stars with the cash they commanded.
Then the Yankees somehow became the face of steroids, even if Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa — none of whom played for the Yanks — were the avatars of PEDs. Once Alex Rodriguez gave his ham-handed apology for PED use, the book cover on steroids was pinstriped.
It doesn't matter if Sosa forgot how to speak English in front of Congress, or if Rafael Palmeiro wagged his finger at the government. Only Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens mattered. Even if the balladeer of baseball's steroid era, Jose Canseco, assured us that up to 80% of players were on PEDs, it was all Yanks, Yanks, Yanks.
So there's some serious schadenfreude to see the Yankees twin nemeses — the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros — are burning on MLB's griddle for cheating. The long arm of baseball law on Monday suspended for a year Astros manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow — both of whom were fired moments later — for their roles in sign stealing in 2017, the only year Houston won the World Series. The Astros also lost first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts and will pay a $5 million fine.
If you're wondering how the Astros fared during the 2017 playoffs, they were 8-1 at home, averaged 5.7 runs per game, batted .273, posted a .519 slugging percentage and bashed 18 homers. On the road, they were 3-6, averaged three runs per game, batted .208 with a .347 slugging percentage and swatted nine homers.
Not only is Houston's 2017 championship tainted, but Boston's 2018 title must be streaked with suspicion. Both clubs beat the Yanks in the playoffs on their way to the championships. Both are now mired in accusations and punishments, clearing the runway for the Yankees to soar over the American League this year.
And it's time for fans to take a wider lens to the sport. The Yankees have been a lightning rod for so long you just assumed they were E Corp (also called Evil Corp) from “Mr. Robot” -- a corporate behemoth that stomps out the competition by dint of its dark power and backroom connections. Its size and sinister ways have gradually devoured the economy, culture and future. These fits of reckless projection should stop now.
No team is without sin. The Yanks were late in letting minorities play in pinstripes. They did have their share of juicers. But by and large the Yankees play within the lines and the rules. (For those who point to George Steinbrenner's two suspensions, neither were caused by acts that enhanced the on-field product.) They earned their orbit over our pastime.
Lastly, a former Yankee, Carlos Beltran, may want to wear a batting helmet when Manfred's gavel slams down. There are reports that the new Mets skipper played a role in the Astros' malfeasance. We don't yet know if Beltran is a miscreant or a convenient scapegoat who's no longer protected by the Major League Baseball Players Association.
But this is mostly about the perception that the Yankees have lorded over baseball with unfair advantages and underworld practices. Maybe now we can admit that catching the Yankees, not being the Yankees, invited MLB's worst impulses.