I caught a bit of an interview with a player or former player, don't know who, on the SirusXM MLB channel the other day. He stated that the advantage gained by knowing which pitch was coming during half the games of a season is far greater than the advantage gained by using PED's.
That's interesting. Do you recall which player it was? That type of statement strikes me as possibly coming from the same place as "I played the game, so take your spin rates and launch angles and shove it." Does he really know that's the case, based only on his lived experience? Does he understand the effects different types of PEDs have on the human body? Without that understanding isn't he just prognosticating like the rest of us? Maybe he does, and I'm certainly no expert.
In any case, I was just doing some looking on baseball reference for 2017 home/road splits for Altuve, Bregman, andMarwin (he put up 4+ wins that year and is on our team now, so why not?), plus Houston as a whole, and here are some home/road splits from 2017 listed in order of GP/AB/BA/OBP/SLG/OPS. It's not like this is a systematic analysis, but I think it's helpful to frame the problem.
Altuve home: 78 gp / 296 ab /.311 ba /.371 obp /.463 slg / .834 ops
Altuve away: 75/294/.381/.449/.633/1.081
Altuve's numbers were quite a bit better on the road that year than at home.
Bregman home: 76/266/.278/.343/.444/.787
Bregman away: 79/290/.290/.360/.503/.863
Bregman's numbers were also better on the road than at home.
Marwin home: 70/234/.282/.339/.543/.881
Marwin away: 64/221/.326/.416/.516/.932
Marwin also performed better on the road that season.
Collectively, the 2017 Astros as a team produced the following splits:
home: .279 avg/ .340 obp/ .472 slg/ .812 ops
away: .284 avg/ .351 obp/.483 slg/ .834 ops
Numbers weren't dramatically different, but their road performance had a slight edge over this home games.
I'm sure there were plenty of key moments where the cheating resulted in a favorable outcome for Houston than if it wasn't deployed, so don't take this as me saying that it had no impact. All I'm saying is that maybe it isn't so clear that this type of cheating is magnitudes more advantageous than PEDs. It's really hard to say what the exact impact of either was on terms of actual outcomes. We don't have counterfactuals to observe, so we have to rely on our own wits when thinking about what would've happened had the sign stealing (or PED use) not occurred.
But I feel pretty comfortable saying that Brady Anderson would not have hit 50 home runs (24% of his career total) in 1996 if he was not juicing. I don't feel comfortable saying that the Astros wouldn't be WS champs in 2017 if they had not stolen signs. It's probably less likely that they would have been, but who knows?
But the argument in the original article is that this scandal is the most impactful on the game in history. I think that it's too early to say that this has had a larger impact on the game than PEDs, though. Maybe this scandal will lead to a lot of fans turning away, which we know that the PED scandal did. We know guys like Ken Caminiti have died from their PED use. We know records were broken, and congressional hearings were held. People still get busted for PEDs, and the issue reaches into all levels of professional baseball. Can the same be said for using video feeds to steal signs (that's an honest question)? Finally, I am adamant that the codified racism of early MLB is the largest scandal in the history of the game. Neither PED use nor using technology for sign stealing touches that, IMO.