The Houston Astros' Cheating Scandal May Have Benefited the Pittsburgh Pirates
The Houston Astros have been the darlings of the league for the last five years. Their meteoric rise from MLB cellar-dweller to perennial contender left the rest of the league searching for things to emulate. That all came crashing down today as the league handed down a harsh penalty on the Astros for an illegal sign-stealing scheme that coincided with their enormous success. While the Astros will be dealing with the fallout from their punishment for years to come, the Pirates may have benefited from their former division foe's problems.
Don Kelly served as the Astros first base coach under AJ Hinch last season before coming home to Pittsburgh where he will be Derek Shelton's bench coach. Kelly is one who will, likely soon, be a hot name in manager searches. So, the fact that Shelton was able to pry him away from Houston was a pretty big win.
Even though the move to Pittsburgh involved a promotion, the job as Houston's first base coach probably afforded more exposure to a young coach who is looking to improve his brand. Teams are regularly looking to baseball's most successful franchises to fill coaching vacancies no matter where the candidate falls on the org chart, and Kelly couldn't have been with a more successful organization.
This is where, perhaps, Houston's cheating scandal played to the benefit of the Pirates. Everyone knew Houston would be punished, and suddenly the exposure that a young coach in Houston would receive turned the other direction. No team, in the near future, would want to touch someone from Hinch's tree, even if the person in question was under no suspicion of wrongdoing. It would just look bad.
The story of Kelly returning to Pittsburgh dominated the coverage of his hiring, but I wonder if a potential homecoming would have been enough to lure him away from Houston if the scandal never happened. It's probably too soon for him to reveal if that was a part of his decision-making, but is certainly a question I'd ask when given the chance.
The Pirates have another connection to this scandal on their coaching staff. Joey Cora, third base coach, is the brother of Boston Red Sox manager, and former Astros' bench coach Alex Cora. Cora is considered a key figure in the scandal and very likely will receive the harshest penalty. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were each suspended for the 2020 season, then later fired from their positions as Astros' manager and general manager (respectively). The Astros will also lose their first and second-round picks in both 2020 and 2021. Cora was instrumental in developing the Astros' sign-stealing process. The league has yet to announce Cora's fate, but that is likely the next biggest bit of news to come from this scandal.
It was season of bad news for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but at least we were able to watch on for a change as another franchise gets put through the wringer. Not only that, but the Buccos were able to hire a coach in Don Kelly that they may not have been able to get otherwise.
Follow Jared on Twitter: @a_piratelife