One of the oldest adages in sports, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying,” is often considered as a measuring stick for what actions are allowed within the boundaries of sportsmanship. On one hand, blatant cheating is typically caught by officials and is frowned upon by all. On the other, an athlete doing anything in their power to win—including trying to stretch the rules—is typically admirable. I’m not condoning cheating by any means, but the parameters of the phrase had to be made clear for today’s topic to make any sense.
The MLB World Series started on Friday of last week and a perfect example of crossing the line between trying to win and flat out cheating was on the biggest of stages. The Houston Astros are playing against the Philadelphia Phillies for the championship, and Friday night’s game was a doozy.
Where exactly is the line between cheating and trying to win
At the end of nine innings, the game was knotted up at 5 runs a piece and Philadelphia took a one run lead in the top of the 10th. With two outs in the bottom of the inning, the Astros brought in Aledmys Diaz to pinch hit. In a lame effort to keep the inning going, he got caught cheating.
For anyone who doesn’t know, being hit by a pitch results in a batter being awarded first base in the same way they would for a walk. The MLB rulebook, however, clearly states, “a batter must make an attempt to avoid being hit by a pitch in order to receive first base.” In Diaz’s case, he blatantly leaned into the pitch, which resulted in him being kept at bat and the pitch being counted as a ball.
While an athlete doing all that they can to secure a win for their team is what most coaches ask for, it is important to make clear the line between what qualifies as trying to win, and what is cheating.