In what was more of a matter of when it would happen rather than if it would happen, Major League Baseball finally made its long-awaited decision early Monday afternoon.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended a year each, the team was docked its top four draft picks over the next two seasons and the club was fined $5 million.

About an hour later, Houston owner Jim Crane fired both Hinch and Luhnow. Even though they were cleared of most wrongdoing in instigating any sign-stealing operation, he decided they didn’t do enough to stop it.

The penalties were the harshest since the Black Sox scandal in which they threw the World Series.

In a world where this type of cheating is more rampant than anyone in Major League Baseball would like to admit, the Astros turned out to be the perfect scapegoats. If an example was going to be made, then it was going to be a team like Houston.

They turned themselves from the laughingstock of baseball into the most winning organization in baseball over the last three years. However, even at their best, the Astros will never draw the ratings of teams like the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers.

In fact, the Red Sox were caught in their own cheating scandal prior to their most recent World Series, which ended with a virtual slap on the wrist of a fine as their only punishment. We’ll wait and see what happens in the latest investigation against the Red Sox.

Boston and manager Alex Cora mutually agreed to part ways on Tuesday night. The not-so-hidden secret is there was nothing mutual about it. Cora was the only coach who was pointed out in the Astros’ investigation for leading the cheating operation. He’ll probably face a multi-year suspension, making his basically a public relations move.

Just a few years ago, both the Red Sox and Yankees were fined much smaller amounts for using technology to steal opposing signals. Instead of hitting them harshly, MLB decided to give a slap on the wrist while warning future offenses would be dealt with more harshly. Therefore, when the Astros found themselves at the center of cheating allegations, there wasn’t much of a doubt MLB was going to lay down the hammer.

On Monday, Rob Manfred did exactly what was expected. It was once again time for the rest of the league to laugh at the Astros.

Quite honestly, Houston got what its deserved as even the most die-hard fans have to admit something was going on. For any Astros’ fan brave enough to venture online over the last few days, the criticism has been harsh. Dodgers’ fans are claiming the 2017 title, while Yankees’ fans are convinced their organization has never done anything wrong.

Former Astros’ pitcher Roy Oswalt summed it up pretty well on his Twitter account.

“So let me get this right. You steal signs and get fired, but you do steroids and get millions of dollars in contracts and inducted into the Hall of Fame? #makesnosense.”

Basically what we’re pointing out is cheating is cheating, and it’s quite a slippery slope to decide to jump off any team’s bandwagon for another. Their bandwagon might be just as slimy.

Just for fun, feel free to take a glance at YourTeamCheats.com, a site that details reasons to cheer against every team in the NFL. If you want to hate any pro organization, there is plenty of ammo out there for you. In short, what we’re saying is it’s not a sin to cheer for the Astros.

They claimed the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium, 1,500 miles away from the sign-stealing operation at Minute Maid Park. As Jose Altuve threw to first base to claim the team’s first-ever World Series title, lifelong Astros’ fans got a moment they thought they’d never see.

Two years later, those memories shouldn’t be tainted, even if the Astros are.

It’s almost impossible to play the Astros as the victims in this scenario. They cheated. They got caught. They took the punishment and dished out even more of their own. When they start the season in a couple of months, they’ll get their chance at their own redemption tour.

If you’re so disgusted by their cheating that you choose a new team, then that’s your right. But for those of us that watch the game for enjoyment instead of some type of moral dilemma, don’t be afraid to pull for the “Good Guys,” even if the good guys might not be so good after all.

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