Despite being the most successful MLB team of the last half decade, the Houston Astros franchise has started to become synonymous for sign stealing, as the once nudge-nudge, wink-wink practice of dodgy, yet legitimate gamesmanship quickly turned immoral and downright unlawful.
A new scathing report by The Athletic accuses the Astros of stealing signs electronically during their World Series season of 2017.
Sign stealing is simply a part of baseball and will always be, but using cameras and other technologies to accomplish the chicanery in real time is strictly prohibited by Major League Baseball.
Former Astros pitcher turned whistleblower Mike Fiers detailed some of the cheating in The Athletic's report.
Fiers, who pitched for the team from 2015-2017, said the team had a TV monitor around the home dugout at Minute Maid Park that had a clear and magnified view of the opponents’ catcher that was shot from a discrete center field camera.
Astros players or staff would then watch the rigged up monitor in the tunnel while Houston players were batting and see where the opposing catcher was setting up and what fingers he was throwing down. They would then relay to the Astros batter up at the plate which pitch was likely coming next by literally banging on trash cans, whistling, or hitting the ceiling of the dugout to signal if it was an off-speed pitch or a fastball.
Former White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar told The Athletic that he heard loud bangs coming from the Astros’ dugout moments before he threw offspeed pitches, but would not hear the radiating sounds before he threw fastballs. A user on Twitter even uploaded a video of Farquhar facing former Astros catcher Evan Gattis that clearly shows loud banging noises coming from the Houston dugout before specific pitches.
As stated above, players on base often try to decipher signs from the pitchers and catchers to relay to the batter, but in this instance no one was on base and the signals from the Astros’ dugout were coming out so quickly after every pitch that it would have been impossible to accomplish the task without the assistance of cameras and monitors.
The Astros have largely laughed off the longtime allegations that always seemed to border on baseless trolling until now.
After being accused by the New York Yankees in the American League Series this past October for incessant sign stealing, Astros manager A.J. Hinch smugly decreed “It made me laugh because it’s ridiculous. Had I known it would take something like that to set off the Yankees, we would’ve practiced that in spring training.”
The MLB declined comment but the Astros issued a statement on Tuesday stating: "Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time.”