By Andrew Zerman | Staff Writer
Steroids. Gambling. Pine tar bats. The sport of baseball is no stranger to inappropriate acts and cheating.
A new scandal is coming to light and it is concerned with the 2017 World Series Champions, the Houston Astros.
The Astros have been accused of sign-stealing during the 2017 postseason and if they are convicted, it can leave an asterisk on their legacy and lead to dire consequences.
Typically, the catcher flashes numbered signs that correlate to a certain pitch which the pitcher either accepts or shakes off.
Since the catcher faces the field, no player on the opposing team can see this except for the baserunners. Sign-stealing is when technology is used to spy on the opponent, giving the opposing team knowledge of the next pitch.
When the people in the dugout find out these future pitches, they can relay them to the batter with a noise, such as banging on a trash can.
“It is a huge advantage for a hitter to know each pitch that is coming. What makes it (the pitch) tough to hit is that it appears to be a different pitch than what it actually is,” Xavier baseball head coach Billy O’Conner said. “So, if you take that aspect of deception away, it becomes significantly easier to make solid contact.”
This sign stealing is not new to the league, as the Red Sox did this in 2017 with Apple Watches.
This resulted in fines, but it is important to note that more attention is being given to the Astros because of their recent dominance and the fact that they won the championship that year.
The Athletic interviewed four former Astros players, and current Athletics pitcher Mike Fiers came clean about it.
“They were not playing the game the right way. They were willing to go above and win,” he said.
Current Red Sox manager Alex Cora and incoming Mets manager Carlos Beltran, who used to play for the Astros, are also among those who are being interviewed.
In addition to the testimonial evidence, the MLB also has paper evidence to suggest cheating. ESPN received news of an email dated back to 2017 that was sent from an Astros official who asked scouts to spy on the opponent’s dugout and to suggest the use of cameras to anticipate pitches. If caught, many potential consequences can ensue.
“I am assuming that fines will be levied if the Astros are found (to be) guilty,” O’Conner said. “I think the biggest way they can prevent this from happening in the future is to levy serious penalties against the Astros if they are found to be cheating. I think that would make teams think twice about doing in in the future.”
There is also the possibility of forfeited draft picks, which will hurt the organization in the long run.
Whether the Astros committed the sign-stealing or not, cooperating with the investigation and thinking in the best interest of the fans will be paramount.