College Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Anyway you look at it, Dodgers still lost 2017 series

The Los Angeles Dodgers lost the 2017 World Series to the Houston Astros and no revisionist history or cheating scandal is going to change that.

Major League Baseball announced major sanctions against the Astros this week for using television technology to steal pitching signals during the 2017 regular season and playoffs, which included them defeating the Dodgers in seven games in the World Series.

The Astros illegally took a television signal from a center field camera in Minute Maid Stadium, deciphered the catcher’s signals to the pitcher and relayed the signal to the batter by hitting a trashcan with a baseball bat.

Major League Baseball came down hard on the Astros, suspending general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for one year, fining the franchise $5 million and stripping the Astros of the first and second choices in the players draft for the next two years.

The Astros punished Luhnow and Hinch by firing them hours after the MBL sanctions were announced.

But the Dodgers have no one but themselves to blame for losing game seven of the 2017 World Series. That game was played at Dodger Stadium. The Astros had no television hookup in the visiting dugout at Dodger Stadium like they had at their home field.

They simply jumped on Dodger starter Yu Darvish for five runs in the first two innings and held on to win 5-1 when the Dodgers couldn’t get a clutch hit to save their lives.

Darvish may have been tipping his pitches, which would allowed the Astros to know what was coming and allowed them to score five runs quickly. But reading a pitcher to learn what he is about to throw and stealing signs with an elaborate setup are two different things.

The Dodgers had eight innings — 24 outs— to come back from a 5-1 deficit. But they had only one hit in 13 at bats with runners in scoring position in the game and left 10 runners on base.

A clutch hit or two and the Dodgers could have been holding a parade instead of the Astros. The first three hitters in the Dodgers lineup were on base six times without ever scoring a run.

The cleanup hitter was Cody Bellinger, a rookie at the time. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. Yasiel Puig hit behind Bellinger. He was 0 for 3.

Dodger fans will be quick to point out that the Dodgers lost game five to the Astros 13-12 in 10 innings. That game was in Minute Maid Park and the Astros might very well have been stealing signs in that game.

That might explain Clayton Kershaw giving up six runs in 4 and 2/3 innings, blowing leads of 4-0 and 7-4 in the process. Brandon Morrow, who was the Dodgers’ second best relief pitcher that season, didn’t get anyone out in the seventh inning. He pitched to four batters and they all reached base and eventually scored.

The Dodgers rallied for three runs to tie the game in the ninth inning, but lost in the 10th inning.

The other games in Minute Maid Park were split. The Astros won game three by the modest score of 5-3 and the Dodgers won game four, 6-2. Apparently stealing signs didn’t work against Alex Wood that game. He pitched a one-hitter over 5 and 2/3 innings. The Astros were held to two hits the entire game.

Baseball teams have been trying to steal the opposing team’s signs since they started using them. My high school baseball team had a first base coach who was very good at it.

But anybody whoever played the game knows that what happens on the field is what counts. The Dodgers don’t want to win the 2017 World Series 26 months later.

We watched the series, we saw game seven, we know the result and now we have to deal with it.

The Astros have to deal with the consequences of their actions. Losing four high draft picks over the next two years will probably keep other teams from trying to emulate them.

Major League Baseball would be wise to restrict access to television cameras for dugouts and solidify the rules against using cellphones and other modern devices to relay information during games.

But the Astros still won the 2017 World Series, although a historical footnote will always remind us of how they did it.

GEAUX COACH O: Congratulations to Louisiana State head football coach Ed Orgeron on leading his team to the national championship in college football Jan. 13 with a 42-25 win over Clemson.

Orgeron could be the USC coach. He was 6-2 as the interim coach in 2013 after Lane Kiffin was fired after an early-season loss to Arizona State.

But his two losses came against Notre Dame and UCLA and athletic director Pat Haden reached out to the University of Washington where Steve Sarkisian, a former Trojan assistant was coaching.

We all know how the Sarkisian era at USC went and when Haden fired Sarkisian in 2015, he made Clay Helton the interim coach and then gave him the fulltime job at the end of the season.

Now, most USC fans want Helton run out of town and long for the good old days of Orgeron.

Orgeron went home to Louisiana, got hired by Les Miles at LSU and replaced Miles when he was fired in November 2016. Slightly more than three years later, he is at the top of the college football world.

Orgeron always was a good recruiter. USC had its worst recruiting year in history this year. I wonder if Haden wants a do over on that hiring?

CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK: It’s conference championship week in the NFL Jan. 19 with the Tennessee Titans facing the Kansas City Chiefs at noon followed by the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers at 3:30 p.m.

I expect a repeat of the very first Super Bowl, which pitted the Packers and the Chiefs, for Super Bowl LIV.

The Titans played a great game against the Baltimore Ravens last week, but the Chiefs have too much offensive fire power. Not many teams could bounce back from a 24-point deficit like the Chiefs did last week.

The San Francisco 49ers have played well all season and Tony Garoppolo is a fine young quarterback, but he has never been on this big a stage before.

Green Bay’s quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, has. The Packers would have been better off hosting the championship game at Lambeau Field where the weather would probably be a factor, but I look for Rodgers and running back Aaron Jones to make the difference in a close game that will go down to the wire.