Former Dodger pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said former Houston Astros manager Alex Cora should be banned from baseball for life and Astros players should be "harshly punished" for their roles in a cheating scandal that helped lead to the Dodgers' loss in the 2017 World Series.
Honeycutt, a Chattanooga native who still lives nearby, had a front row seat to perhaps the most controversial championship in recent American sports. As would be revealed in a 2019 article by “The Athletic”, the Houston Astros utilized a variety of illegal techniques to gain an edge over his Dodger pitchers.
The Astros famously watched live video of opposing pitchers and beat trash cans to indicate a breaking ball was coming to their hitters. The most recent allegations point to Houston hitters using “buzzers” in their jerseys to know what pitch was coming ahead of time.
Despite being complicit in the cheating, Astro players have thus far avoided any sort of punishment for their role in the scandal. Honeycutt, still with the Dodgers as a special assistant after retiring as a pitching coach in 2019, was less than thrilled with this outcome for the Houston players who hit so well against Clayton Kershaw and the rest of the Dodger pitching staff.
“I don’t (believe the MLB’s punishment was enough),” said Honeycutt shortly after speaking to the Chattanooga Rotary Club. “They gave immunity for their cooperation, but I feel like, when it first came out, they were like “OK, whatever.” But I think now, when it comes out more, and baseball doesn’t want it to come out because it’s a black eye for baseball. But at the same time, there should be consequences for what they did, more than (what was handed down Major League Baseball).”
As a result of the scandal, General Manager Jeff Lunhow and Manager A.J. HInch were suspended for a year by Major League Baseball. However, they were fired hours afterward by owner Jim Crane. While Hinch did not approve of the cheating, he did not do anything to stop it from happening. Lunhow did not appear to know about the cheating as well, but he was still held responsible for the actions of his team.
In a USA Today article, Crane was quoted as saying “I felt with what came out in the report they both had responsibilities. Neither one of them started this but neither one of them did anything about it.”
Carlos Beltran, a player on those teams, mutually parted ways with the Mets only months after taking the managerial job with the New York Mets. Despite being the trio being fired, Honeycutt emphasized the impermanent nature of the punishment, and reiterated the fact that none of the Astro players had been disciplined.
“Their manager and general manager got fired, but not for life. They got fired, and some other people got fired, but no player was punished and they’re the ones who benefited,” said Honeycutt. “They benefited with getting the World Series ring and being called a champion. Some of them got multi-year deals after that. Those are all things that you have to look at.”
For the former pitching coach, the advanced methods the Astros used to cheat were worse than any other past scandal, saying “Some of the information that I’ve heard, not where it’s just about cameras but they were actually wearing devices that actually buzz them, that takes a little bit different intent and takes it to a different level. It’s to a higher level than it’s ever happened in the game of baseball. And they need to be harshly punished for that.”
Jose (Alex) Cora, the bench coach for Lunhow and one of the masterminds of the cheating operations had moved to Boston in 2018 and won a title that year with the Red Sox. Cora allegedly brought the rule-breaking methods to Boston, although as of the present time, nothing conclusive has come out yet.
Boston promptly sacked Cora after his role in the Houston scandal came to light, but Honeycutt did not believe that was a stiff enough penalty for Cora’s actions.
“They haven’t even come out with what they’re going to do to Boston yet, but their manager was part of the problem there in Houston,” said Honeycutt. “I know Jose Cora very well, but I think that he should be banned for life. He pretty much coordinated this process.”
Honeycutt even referenced his own past as a “cheater” during his own playing days. After an umpire found Honeycutt using a thumbtack to scuff the ball before pitches during a late September match in 1980, he was immediately ejected from the game and suspended for 10 more games.
“Like for me, these guys have gotten caught,” said Honeycutt. “When I got caught, I at least got suspended for 10 games. And if a guy uses a banned substance, sometimes it may be something over the counter that any one of us can take, but it’s not on their list, so they can get banned for 80 games.”
“Well truth to matter, there should’ve been at least a punishment of suspension (for the players).”