MLB investigating allegations of Houston Astros sign stealing
TORONTO -- Major League Baseball is investigating a report that the Houston Astros used a television camera to steal signs during the 2017 season -- a year where the club went on to win the World Series.
First reported in the sports publication The Athletic, former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers and three anonymous people within the club accused the Astros of setting up a camera in centre field that was connected to a monitor in the hallway between their dugout and their clubhouse. Team employees and players watching the live feed would then bang a garbage can to indicate an off-speed pitch to the hitter, The Athletic reported.
Additionally, two sources told The Athletic the practice continued into the playoffs, while another said it stopped before the playoffs began.
“It’s quite a bombshell,” Gordon Bloom, a sports psychology professor at McGill University, told CTV News Channel. “There’s one thing to use technology to try to get an edge, but there’s another thing when you’re blatantly cheating and going past the code.”
Sign stealing is essentially the act of using technology -- be it the use of live video or recordings -- to decipher the signals the catcher uses to figure out what type of pitch is coming his way.
In a statement to The Associated Press, the Astros said it "has begun an investigation in co-operation with Major League Baseball,” but declined to elaborate. At the general managers’ meetings this week in Arizona, Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow told reporters he is taking the allegation “seriously,” but did not go into specifics.
“If you're not following the rules, it's a serious matter," he said. "I'm not going to get into exactly what I knew or anybody knew at this point. So I'm just going to have to wait and see. But I'm sure there will be an appropriate time to answer that question directly."
MLB players and managers have told both The Athletic and The Associated Press that they had suspicions that something nefarious was going on in the Astros dugout, but did not have any definitive evidence.
On Twitter, former Boston Red Sox pitcher Carson Smith alleged the Astros bullpen catcher would send signs to specific batters.
“(The) Astros went to extreme measures, undoubtedly still do, and it’s paid off for them,” he tweeted.
Smith added that a lot of MLB bullpens have TVs, though they are required to have a five-second delay to mitigate any signal stealing.
MLB strengthened league rules regarding sign stealing before the 2019 season to include measures meant to prevent sign stealing through video. The league said given the recent allegations, it would now re-evaluate the policy to determine any necessary updates.
“You can use technology or analytics to give your team an edge, that’s OK, but there are certain rules and policies and procedures that you have to follow and what is being alleged to have occurred with the Houston Astros is cheating,” Bloom said.
“You’re dealing with people’s careers, their lives, these are professional athletes and having a poor performance or winning and losing can mean a lot as far as dollars and cents.”
Bloom said he is not sure of what an appropriate punishment might be, but given the league’s history of dealing with cheating, the Astros are unlikely to face a severe reprimand.
“In baseball you’ve got all these guys that were caught cheating with performance enhancing substances, like Barry Bonds,” he said. “He still has the home run record so I don’t think they’re going to go back and do an about face.”
The Astros are also under investigation after assistant general manager Brandon Taubman was fired for inappropriate comments directed at female reporters following the team’s win in the American League Championship series. He was fired on Oct. 24.
With files from The Associated Press