During the 2017-2018 MLB season, the Houston Astros managed to pull off one of the biggest scandals in history of sports.
After the 2019 season ended, the MLB, after intense investigation, released a report confirming that the Houston Astros had engaged in sign-stealing during the 2017 and 2018 MLB seasons. The report cited interviews with 68 people and the review of “tens of thousands” of emails, text messages and videos. However, while the league suspended managers and fined the team $5 million, they did not punish any players or vacate the team’s World Series championship, generating further controversy towards this situation.
Sign stealing is an act in baseball where the hitting team observes the hand signals the pitcher and the catcher uses to communicate what pitch they are going to throw and communicates the information to the batter. This happens occasionally when the runner on second base sees the sign the catcher puts out and tries to tell the batter what pitch they are going to throw. However, usually, these acts are noticed by the umpire or the pitcher.
Even though there was no evidence the Astros cheated during the 2019 season, their regular season record was suspicious. They had a win rate of 74.1 percent at home, compared to a win rate of 58 percent away.
The MLB cited this report that “On November 12, 2019, former Houston Astros player Mike Fiers publicly alleged in an article published by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic that the Astros had engaged in sign-stealing methods in 2017 that violated MLB’s rules. The allegations in the article created significant concern among many of our fans and other MLB Clubs regarding the adherence to our rules by those participating in our games, and the principles of sportsmanship and fair competition.”
Somehow, the Astros managed to do this for at least two seasons. The incredible part about this is that the whole team was agreeing to steal signs. They used the camera near the centre field wall of their home stadium “Minute Maid Park”, which live streamed the signs the catcher was putting out. The live footage was streamed in the dugout and the players would make a loud noise, such as banging a trash can, and the batter would know if the pitch was going to be a fastball or a breaking ball. No bang meant fastball. One or two bangs often meant a breaking ball or a change up.
In the 2017 MLB season, the year the Astros won the World Series, there were videos of the players in the dugout knocking down trash cans and banging on materials to let the batters know what pitches were coming next. In fact, during the 2017 MLB world series Clayton Kershaw, known as the best pitcher in his generation, was obliterated by the Astros offense. The Astros somehow managed not to swing and miss on all 51 breaking balls from the best pitcher in the world. Dodgers fans criticized Kershaw for this miserable pitching performance. However, now we realize that it wasn’t his fault.
They even got a ring out of this inappropriate act.
Questions remain regarding whether or not the league has not done enough to punish the Astros. The league, in response to cheating for multiple years, suspended Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and field manager A. J. Hinch for the entire 2020 season for failing to prevent the rules violations. has imposed a $5 million fine on the Astros and taken away their first and second-round draft picks in both 2020 and 2021.
However, despite the finding of the MLB report that the scheme was “player driven,” no fines or suspensions were handed out to any players, and the Astros have kept their Major League title.
Many MLB players do not think this is enough.
“Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.” Cody Bellinger, the National league MVP, told Sports Illustrated. “Those guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don’t realize is Altuve stole an MVP from Judge in ’17.”
It wasn’t only Bellinger that was not pleased with this situation. Center Fielder for the LA Angels, Mike Trout, said, “I don’t agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing. It sucks, too, because guys’ careers have been affected, a lot of people lost jobs. It was tough.”
“Me going up to the plate knowing what was coming — it would be pretty fun up there.”
Image Credit: flickr / KA Sports Photos