Major League Baseball is now faced with a singular question: now what?
Scandal has touched baseball once again, with the Houston Astros' sign-stealing raising all kinds of questions. How did they do it? How long did it go on for? How did it impact the outcomes of games?
With new proof of wrongdoing emerging seemingly by the hour, the question now becomes what sort of punishment awaits the team for its transgressions. This isn't like the steroid controversy, where Hall of Fame voters could simply decide not to elect individual players to Cooperstown. When it's apparently a team-wide conspiracy that may have lasted several years and impacted who knows how many games, what can be done?
Draft Pick Forfeiture
The MLB Draft is perhaps the most difficult to nail of the four major sports. A majority of the selections are, at best, maybe two or three years from making an impact on the major league club that takes them. But the Astros' built their success on alleged sign-stealing and shrewd draft selections. Among the homegrown Houston products are Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and George Springer, all of whom were chosen in the first round. Denying the Astros' the ability to restock that prospect pipeline could be their nightmare. Houston was previously on the other end of a draft pick punishment, as they were afforded two selections belonging to St. Louis Cardinals when scouting director Chris Correa was found guilty of hacking the Astros' prospect database.
Vacate The Records
Obviously, putting the 2017 New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers (the teams respectively victimized by the Astros in the ALCS and World Series respectively) in a winter World Series redo isn't happening. But MLB could opt to go the NCAA-route and simply vacate Houston's championships and accomplishments from the stretch of alleged sign-stealing. Sure, everyone would still know who won the 2017 World Series, but it could perhaps caused the World Series banner to be removed from Minute Maid Park.
Deny Home Games
There's no real "death penalty" in Major League Baseball, or any of the other professional sport. Even the NCAA -- which became famous for the practice -- has been reluctant to use it, after employing it only five times in its history. Obviously that won't happen to the Astros, but baseball could force them on the road, which would penalize them a serious chunk of revenue. The more likely scenario for this situation would to force the Astros to forfeit home games for, say, international trips to Japan or London. TBL's own Kyle Koster outlined this idea in further detail earlier.
Once investigations conducted by the league conclude, there will be a better chance to gain some clarity as to who exactly was responsible. Including Chris Correa, three people have been given lifetime bans in the Rob Manfred era, the others being former Atlanta Braves manager John Coppolella (for improper dealings with international free agents) and former New York Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia (whose ban was later lifted). That list could soon grow following neutral investigation into this situation.