"Say it ain't so, Joe."

That five-word sentence is a part of Major League Baseball lore because of its association with Joseph Jefferson Jackson, who will forever be remembered for his nickname and his role in the infamous “Black Sox Scandal” in 1919.

That was the year that seven members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of conspiring to fix the outcome of the World Series.

There has been a decades-long debate about Jackson’s role in the scandal, and fact and fiction have become intermingled. Jackson stood accused of accepting $5,000 (twice his yearly salary), but nothing matched up to his participating in the scam.

The slugger led all batters in the series with a .375 average, was perfect in the field, and set a World Series record with 12 base hits. Jackson’s accomplishment was so extraordinary that his achievement would stand for 45 years before being broken in 1964. He’s the owner of the third-highest career batting average in MLB history and hit .408 his rookie season.

There are thousands of facts to relay about Shoeless Joe, or you can break it down into a simple sentence.

Shoeless Joe Jackson was one of the greatest baseball players of all-time, and he’s not in the Baseball Hall of Fame because he was tarnished by cheating.”

Jackson’s not being in the Hall of Fame and banned for life from baseball for taking money is a different story than the one of Pete Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader. Rose known as “Charlie Hustle” during his playing career bet on his team as a manager, and it cost him his career and that long-coveted induction into the HOF.

It doesn’t appear either player cheated as much as they broke the rules of baseball that are in place to protect the integrity of the game and thus preventing MLB from turning into WWE wrestling where a scriptwriter determines the outcome.

MLB has worked for 100 years protecting its brand and threw it out the window Monday with its announcements of punishment for cheating in 2017 by a team that won the World Series.

The punishment for Houston Astros General manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch will be a year-long suspension from baseball, the loss of first and second-round draft picks, and a $5 record million fine. It was announced late Monday both men had been fired.

Shoeless Joe must be spinning in his grave.

Neither manager was directly involved in what MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred called a “player-driven scheme to steal signs and relay them to batters by banging on a garbage can.”

How many players involved in this proven cheating scandal have been disciplined?

Not one. 

The 2017 World Series champions were a team mostly filled with cheaters, and not one of the players involved has been punished.

The only people being punished are two baseball managers that 95 percent of the American population can’t pick out of a mug-shot lineup. A third person, Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora (former Astros bench coach), is also expected to be face penalties. Please take note here that the Red Sox won the title in 2018.

A trio that knew about the Astros’ players cheating and won games because of it and obviously with Cora’s hire by Boston benefitted greatly financially, but again they didn’t participate in the cheating, they just let it happen.

WTH? SMH? WT#?

That’s new-age journalism “signing” for this doesn’t make sense to me.

Has baseball changed that much since the summer of 1989 when Rose agreed to a settlement that banned him from the game? Are the players involved not going to face some sanctions?

The Astros cheated before and after Commissioner Manfred issued a memo regarding the use of an Apple Watch that promised severe discipline for teams that violate MLB’s rules against using technology during games.

What needs to happen here is pretty black and white, but it won’t because baseball has gone from protecting its brand to safeguarding its players (and money).

I wonder how big Monday’s self-inflicted bruise to the MLB brand will prove to grow after this self hit-by-pitch move.

The real victims of this foul play are the New York Yankees, who lost to both teams in the ACLS each year.

Baseball and its fans deserve better, and the punishment should include the players involved. All of them knew a camera, video monitor, and a trashcan were being used to relay signals.

Maybe baseball will rethink its punishments and strip away the 2017 world title, or face forever having that year’s team known as the Houston Asterisks.

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