A few weeks after losing the World Series to the Washington Nationals and having a member of their front office boasting about acquiring a player with a history of domestic violence, the Astros organization is in hot water again.
According to former Astro Mike Fiers, who pitches for the division-rival Oakland Athletics, the Astros used high-technology cameras in centerfield to steal pitch signs from opposing catchers while playing in their home field, Minute Maid Park. He said they did so on the 2017 World Series Champion team.
Per the Chicago Tribune, the MLB is now investigating after former White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar also confirmed a specific at-bat in which the Astros alerted the batter (Evan Gattis) of a changeup being thrown. In the Tribune article, Farquhar says he heard “a banging from the dugout, almost like a bat hitting the bat rack every time a changeup signal got put down” coming from the Astros side of the diamond. One of the best baseball follows on Twitter, Jomboy, did a breakdown of that specific sequence here:
This video shows the at-bat Farquhar recalls. It’s amazing how a team can learn of the sign so quickly. As pointed out in the video, cameras had to be used in order to relay that information in such a short amount of time.
The numbers confirm this. In the Twitter thread below, you can find the numbers for the Astros in 2017:
Yesterday, Lucas Giolito chimed in on the controversy. There’s a video in the tweet below:
This morning, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich both announced that newly hired Mets manager Carlos Beltran and current Red Sox manager Alex Cora played a key role in the Astros stealing signs via camera. At the time, Beltrán was in his final MLB season, while Cora was the team’s bench coach, according to Rosenthal’s article. This debacle just continues to have layers added to it. More players now agree that the Astros were cheating and additional names continue to be implicated.
Another development in this story is the methodology of the Astros signaling different pitches coming across the plate. One bang meant a breaking ball, two bangs indicated a changeup, and silence suggested a fastball. An example video from Max Wildstein can be found here:
When it comes down to it, sign-stealing is a part of the game. Everyone knows that. If a guy on second catches wind of a sign, he can alert his teammates of the pitch. Fine. Whatever. If a pitcher tips his pitches (gives an inadvertent signal of the same pitch coming the batter’s way each time), and the opponent notices, that’s also fine. Stealing signs with a video camera in your home ballpark is not, however. What’s next? A camera in every home ballpark? Catchers or managers not calling pitches? Pitchers just thinking of a pitch on their own all the time? Cheating like this ruins the game. Competition is always about having a leg up on your opponent, but this is crossing the line. Players across the league have taken notice of how the Astros work. They used to be the new “Golden Boys” of sabermetrics. Now, they’re noticeably one of the most hated teams in the league, and for good reason.
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