Report: Astros stole signs electronically in 2017
Warning: Video contains coarse language
Four people who were with the Astros in 2017, including pitcher Mike Fiers, confirmed to Rosenthal and Drellich that the Astros were stealing signs in real time with the aid of a camera in the outfield.
MLB is already investigating the Astros' culture following the firing of assistant general manager Brandon Taubman for insensitive remarks toward a group of reporters following the ALCS. That investigation could reportedly be expanded to determine which members of the Astros organization were aware of the illegal sign-stealing and whether the team kept doing it.
The league is also expected to interview current and former Astros players and employees, according to The Athletic's sources.
The Astros responded to the story with a brief statement Tuesday afternoon.
"Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball," the Astros said, according to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. "It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time."
The sign-stealing setup apparently involved a camera in center field that looked in on an opposing catcher's signs. The camera's feed was reportedly shown on a television monitor on a wall steps from the team's home dugout. Team employees and players would watch the screen to try and decode the opposing team's signs, sources said. If viewers believed they had figured the signs out, they would communicate to the batter with a loud noise, sources explained - usually by banging on a trash can in a tunnel near the dugout.
While two of The Athletic's sources said the Astros' sign-stealing system was used during the 2017 playoffs, another person insisted that the practice stopped at the end of the regular season. The Astros won the World Series in 2017.
"I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they're going in there not knowing," Fiers explained. "Young guys getting hit around in the first couple of innings starting a game, and then they get sent down. It's (B.S.) on that end. It's ruining jobs for younger guys."
Former White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar appeared to notice what the Astros were doing in September 2017 when he heard loud banging during two relief appearances at Minute Maid Park.
"There was a banging from the dugout, almost like a bat hitting the bat rack every time a changeup signal got put down," Farquhar said. "After the third one, I stepped off. I was throwing some really good changeups and they were getting fouled off. After the third bang, I stepped off."
The banging apparently stopped after Farquhar and his catcher began using a more complex series of signs.
Former Astros outfielder Carlos Beltran, who played his final season on that 2017 team, denied that Houston used technology while he was there. He said the Astros' only use of sign-stealing happened when runners were on second base and spotted the catcher's signals, a method that's become commonly accepted in baseball as a form of gamesmanship.
"I'm not aware of that camera," the new Mets manager told Joel Sherman of the New York Post. "We were studying the opposite team every day."
"We took a lot of pride studying pitchers (on) the computer. That is the only technology that I use and understand," Beltran added. "It was fun seeing guys get to the ballpark to look for little details."
During the 2018 playoffs, a person connected to the Astros named Kyle McLaughlin was discovered taking pictures during the team's series against the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox.
MLB did not reprimand the Astros in 2018 and wound up clearing them of wrongdoing after Houston GM Jeff Luhnow said they were trying to detect whether their opponents were cheating.
During the 2019 ALCS, players and coaches from the New York Yankees said the Astros were using whistling to steal signs. The Astros were once again cleared.
Major League Baseball prohibits clubs from using electronics to gain an unfair advantage by stealing a catcher's signs. Teams are also prohibited from signaling to their hitters from the dugout through whistling or other means.
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