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The Meaning Behind MLB's Unprecedented Astros Punishment

The Official Professional Baseball Rules Book—a totally distinct entity, somehow, from the Official Baseball Rules—is not much concerned with mechanisms of enforcement. It rolls the rules out one after another; there is almost no effort to break down the “or else” that lurks behind each one. There are a few allusions to “penalties,” but their details are never sketched in, and the reader is left to fill in the blanks. There is no sense of what it means to break the law.

And then there is one rule, thrown in the middle of the book, after “Obligations of Participants” and before “Classification of Minor Leagues,” that is just a giant “or else,” weighty enough to warp all of the entries around it.