The Houston Astros' real crime isn't stealing signs. It's worse.

The Astros’ sin—and this sign-stealing scheme is better understood as a sin than a crime—was the natural consequence of the vicious habit to which Major League Baseball has become addicted: Because for two decades, the MLB has allowed technology to slowly dehumanize the game, melting the human relationships on which it is based.

Video replays, for instance, have killed the electricity of a close call at first base by introducing slack in the inherent tension between those involved in the play and those who saw it happen.

Or take the strike zone, which has traditionally been a state of mind rather than a clearly defined space: it has historically been worked out, inning by inning, in a delicate negotiation between pitchers, umpire, and fans, each having their own ideas of fairness, and their own ways of imposing accountability.

Now there is a digital white box hovering above the plate for every TV broadcast and the robot umpires are coming.