Winners Never Cheat- The Houston Astros Sign Stealing Scandal
Winners Never Cheat- Or So We Thought
The Controversial Houston Astros Sign Stealing Scandal
In 2017, Major League Baseball (MLB) crowned a new champion in the Houston Astros. The 2017 Astros are widely regarded as one of the best baseball teams of the 2010s. They claimed their title over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the same year Houston was decimated by flooding from Hurricane Harvey. But in late 2019, reports surfaced that during the 2017 season, the Astros had been stealing the signs from catchers. And now, more than two years after the Astros Championship run, calls are coming in from all over for their title to be stripped and handed over to the Dodgers.
What this means- In baseball, when a player is up to bat, there are three main people. The batter, the pitcher and the catcher. The catcher and the pitcher are, during a game, on the opposite team of the batter. The catcher will, depending on the batter, do a “sign” of fingers to the pitcher. Typically, one finger means fastball, two means curveball, three for a slider and four for a changeup. The catcher will change his signs per batter. Stealing the signs, whilst not illegal according to the MLB, had long been frowned upon and had eventually been accepted as “part of the game.” Stealing them by means of electronics (phones, cameras, etc.), however, was forbidden and was meant to be met with punishment.
How did they do it- In November of 2019, ex Astros pitcher Mike Fiers had an interview with The Atlantic. In that interview, Fiers leaked the entire operation. The Astros had a camera set up in center field, pointing at the catcher. The camera broadcasted live feed back to a monitor in a tunnel that lead into the Astros dugout. Depending on the sign that was flashed, a player or someone else in the dugout would bang on a trashcan or make a noise to alert the Astros player at bat. Alex Cora, who was the bench coach for the Astros in 2017 was credited with masterminding and implementing the scheme. For how many games the team used the scandal is not known, but the Astros finished the 2017 season with a 101-61 win-loss record, and finished with a 103-59 record in 2018.
What has/will happen- Following the interview, the MLB launched an investigation into the scandal. The investigation lasted three months and concluded that the sign stealing had indeed been going on for almost the entire 2017 regular season and postseason, and for parts of the 2018 season. As a result, the Astros were handed a $5 million fine, the maximum fine allowed by the MLB, and Astros General Manager Jeff Lunhow and Field Manager A.J. Hinch was suspended. Though Hinch and Lunhow did not create the scheme, the MLB stated they knew about it and did nothing to stop it.
The Astros were also forced to forfeit their first and second round picks in the 2020 and 2021 MLB Draft. Within hours of the results and suspensions, Hinch and Lunhow were both fired by the Astros. Alex Cora, who was at the time manager of the Boston Red Sox, agreed to part ways with the Sox. Carlos Beltrán, who was a player for the Astros in 2017 and was slated to become the manager of the New York Mets, was also named in the report. He was the only player to be named, and as a result, he and the Mets agreed to part ways. Though Cora and Beltrán were not handed suspensions, they still do not have a team today. As for the 2017 World Series title, calls from fans all around have come for it to be stripped and handed to the Dodgers. As of now, nothing has come forward in something as extreme as this happening. Mike Fiers, who was the one that originally leaked the scheme, has also come under fire (pun not intended) for leaking the scheme. Many fans on social media have regarded him as a “snitch.” Fiers is currently a pitcher for the Oakland Athletics.
At the end of the day, the Astros cheated. They did something for more than a year that may or may not have been the difference in them winning a title. Whether or not the title gets stripped is to be seen. We shall see how the Astros fare in this upcoming 2020 season, without their famed GM.