The Astros Stole My Other Title


Keith Allison/Flickr

Astros players celebrate together during a 2018 game.

Jack Carmichael, Reporter

Since the beginning of baseball, signs have been a major aspect of the game. Coaches relay signals to their players in order to indicate a certain play or a pitch be thrown. Since the beginning of baseball, teams have always looked for ways to steal signs from their opponent. While there is no way for the MLB to stop sign stealing, the use of technology to steal signs is a clear no-no.

After the Houston Astros faced multiple accusations of stealing signs following the 2019 World Series, “The Athletic,” a sports news website, published an article that called out the Astros for stealing signs electronically during their 2017 season. The article, written by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich, raised the idea that varying forms of stealing signs can be found all throughout the game of baseball.

Multiple former Astros blew the whistle on their former teammates, including Oakland Athletics pitcher, Mike Fiers. Fiers leaked to Rosenthal and Drellich that the Astros had been using an outfield camera to steal the signs from the catcher in order to relay the upcoming pitch to the hitter. 

The system went like this:

  • The outfield camera would get the sign from the catcher
  • A TV in the back of the dugout would show the feed from that camera to show what the catcher put down
  • An employee of the Astros would then bang on a trash can, whistle, or another loud noise in order to let the batter know what pitch was coming

After the report was released, many baseball fans took to the internet. Harlem native Jimmy O’Brien began searching the MLB archives for video evidence, after reading the report. Upon investigation, “Jomboy” as he is known on Twitter, released a video of a 2017 at-bat where the trash can banging can be clearly heard. 

These videos were not the only evidence from the 2017 season. In the postseason, the Astros went 8-1 at home, while struggling on the road with a 3-6 record. As a team, the Astros hit 18 home runs in Houston, just 9 away from home. Second basemen José Altuve had a .472 batting average at home, compared to .143 outside of Houston. Catcher Brian McCann hit .300 at home and a dismal .037 on the road. 

The MLB investigations concluded with evidence of the Astros using the camera to steal signs throughout the 2017 regular season and postseason, in which they defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. The evidence extended into the 2018 season, but no evidence could be found in the 2018 postseason or the 2019 season. 

After the deep in-depth investigation by the MLB, manager A.J. Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow were both suspended for a year. The Astros received a $5 million fine, as well as losing their first and second-round draft picks for the 2020 and 2021 drafts. Following their suspensions, Astros owner Jim Crane dismissed Hinch and Luhnow from the organizations following their suspensions. 

None of the current players received any punishments for their involvement, but the backlash extended throughout the league. 

Former Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who took the head coaching job for the Boston Red Sox, following the 2017 season, was reported to be an influential member of the Astros scheme. Amid cheating allegations during the Red Sox 2018 World Series Championship season, the Red Sox fired Cora in January. Cora and the Red Sox are still awaiting their punishments.

Carlos Beltrán, a former outfielder for the Houston Astros during the 2017 season, took the head coaching job for the New York Mets after the 2019 season. After being named in reports as a key player in the scheme, he stepped down from the role. His 76 days as the manager is one of the shortest head coaching stints in professional sports history. 

In a follow-up report by Rosenthal and Drellich, many players discussed the large role Beltrán played in the scheme. Players around the league described him as, “El Jefe, the Godfather, the king, the alpha male in the building.”

Fan reactions have been extremely mixed. Some fans have called for their title to be taken away from them, while others have argued that their punishment was enough. Some other fans have argued that the Dodgers deserve to receive the title. 

Country Day baseball coach and former Houston native, Michael Settle ‘99, was frustrated with the whole situation.

“It’s unfortunate they took sign-stealing to the extent that they did, although it’s been a part of baseball forever,” Settle ‘99 said.

“As a Dodgers fan, I am extremely upset,” Jack Mezey ‘23 said. “While I don’t think Houston and Boston’s titles should be stripped, I do think more draft picks should have been taken away, players should have been punished, and international picks should be taken away.”

The Dodgers players were clearly frustrated with the outcome but all agreed that they didn’t deserve to receive the championship. 

Dodgers star third baseman, Justin Turner, told reporters, “We don’t want a fake banner hanging in our stadium. We didn’t earn that.”

Some Astros fans have completely lost faith in their organization. 

“I have always thought of myself as an avid Astros fan. However, due to the recent cheating scandal, I have honestly just removed myself from the situation entirely,” Olivia Neve ‘22 said.

Avid baseball fan and US English teacher, Spencer Smith, discussed his thoughts on the scandal. 

“I suspect many teams have had something in place, though perhaps not to the extent the Astros used in the past few years,” Smith said. “Let them keep their rings and their trophy, but let history remember them accordingly.”

The Astros replaced Hinch with Dusty Baker. He last coached for the Nationals in 2017 but has also had coaching stops with the Giants, Cubs, and Reds. 

Entering the 2020 season, the Astros come in with a huge target on their back. Some important dates to watch for include April 24-26, when Mike Fiers and the Oakland Athletics make their first trip of the year to Houston. The Astros will not travel to play the Yankees until September 21-24, and Houston does not play the Los Angeles Dodgers this season. 

UPDATE: The 2020 MLB season has been put on hold until further notice due to the coronavirus. The MLB is hoping for a June start and an abbreviated schedule.