The Houston Astros are under fire for implementing technology into the art of sign stealing. January 13, 2020 Major League Baseball began doling out punishments for some of the involved parties. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and AJ Hinch were suspended for a year. Former Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, who was fired during the playoffs, was barred from working with an MLB club for a year. Carlos Beltran, a former Astro who is the only player who has been affected by the scandal thus far, was let go as Manager of the New York Mets. The team was fined $5 million dollars and they lost their first and second round draft picks for both 2020 and 2021. It looks like this is where the MLB has decided to draw the line on sign stealing. Astros owner Jim Crane wasted no time and quickly fired Luhnow and Hinch.
Prior to digging into the accusations and rumors swirling around the Houston Astros, it’s important to acknowledge that the sport of baseball has a long and sordid, yet celebrated, culture of cheating. With any sport, players often look for an advantage or an edge on their opponent. That is not a foreign concept. Ideally, the advantage comes from developing a skillset that is unmatched by said opponent. In baseball, perhaps you run faster or hit harder as a result of years of training and/or hitting the genetic lottery. Unfortunately, the type of advantage that the MLB world is being piled on for as of late is the cheating advantage.
Cheating comes in all forms in the world of baseball. In fact, there are individuals that were inducted into the Hall of Fame who have admitted to cheating. Some folks doctored the balls that were thrown by adding something with a low viscosity to make it difficult to hit. Some individuals took steroids to make themselves bigger, faster, and/or stronger. Also, throughout the history of the sport of baseball, players stole signs. Sign stealing is watching to see the signal that the catcher from the opposing team gives to the pitcher. If a batter knows what kind of a pitch is coming they have a pretty good advantage in knowing what to go after and what to lay off of.
In November of 2019 an article was authored by Ken Rosenthal/Evan Drellich and published in The Athletic that detailed how the Astros stole signs during the 2017 World Series title run season electronically. A former Astros player Mike Fiers, who currently pitches for the Oakland Athletics, corroborated the claims by saying on record that they, in fact, have a pretty elaborate sign stealing setup. After that article was published, the MLB launched their investigation. During the time period in which the MLB launched its investigation, the internet launched its own internal investigation and the evidence was overwhelming.
What the abundance of clips show is that the feed from the center field camera that went directly to a monitor in a hallway located near the dugout was watched closely by a member of the Astros organization. They would see the signal given to the pitcher by the catcher and then inform the batter by hitting a trash can.
Another rumor that has resurfaced in the past week is that Astros players Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman were allegedly wired with some sort of buzzing device that informed them of pitches. This conspiracy theory was fueled by the fact that Altuve was adamant about not having his jersey ripped off after hitting a walk-off home run. The MLB has concluded that they found “no evidence” that would substantiate these claims during their investigation.
Are the Astros the only team that has done this? Of course not. What the Astros are is the team that got caught stealing…signs from the cookie jar.