Astro Trash: The aftermath of the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal

Jose+Altuve+at+bat+for+the+Houston+Astros+in+July+2017%0A

Wikimedia Commons

Jose Altuve at bat for the Houston Astros in July 2017

Maggie Peterson, Business Manager

An intricate sign stealing system, created by the Houston Astros, has been at the forefront of controversy in Major League Baseball since the end of the 2019 season. Commissioner Rob Manfred has been investigating a claim issued by whistleblower Mike Fiers (former Houston Astros pitcher) that the system allowed the Astros to win the World Series in 2017.

One month ago Manfred published the findings of the investigation, initiated by the Department of Investigations (DOI). Alex Cora (Astros bench coach in 2017; Boston Red Sox Manager 2018-2019) had a monitor installed displaying the center field camera in the stairwell between the clubhouse and the dugout. The camera displayed a zoomed in view of the catcher’s signs. A player would watch the monitor, see the sign from the catcher, and then another player would bang on a trash can to indicate the upcoming pitch to the batter.

This resulted in Manfred taking away the Astros first and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021, as well as imposing a five million dollar fine. He also suspended Jeff Luhnow, the Astros general manager, and A.J. Hinch, the Astros manager, for a year (2020 season). This resulted in the Astros owner, Jim Crane, firing both Hinch and Luhnow for their involvement in the scandal. 

The Red Sox also fired Alex Cora for his role in the scandal. Carlos Beltran, a former player who played for the Astros in 2017, resigned as manager of the New York Mets. However, none of the current players on the Astros have received any punishment for their role. 

Sign stealing has been a part of baseball since the beginning. Senior Andrew Doyle, a member of the PV varsity baseball team, knows it’s been happening in baseball but signs have never been stolen using a camera during a game. “The art of sign stealing has been a part of the game for a long time, but when you implement the nonhuman elements into the game, it no longer turns into strategy,” said Doyle. The difference in this scandal is using technology during the actual game to steal signs. 

On Feb. 13, Crane hosted a press conference in an attempt to apologize on behalf of the Astros’ organization. CBS Sports reports that Crane said, “our opinion is that it didn’t impact the game.” Less than a minute later Crane backtracked and said, “I didn’t say it didn’t impact the game.” Players Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve, the latter won the 2017 American League MVP, spoke very briefly and apologized for their role in the scandal. 

Position players from the other 29 teams started reporting for spring training on Feb. 17 and they did not hold back their disappointment and anger about the cheating scandal and the punishments determined by Manfred. 

Defending NL MVP and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger was unimpressed by the Astros so-called apology. ESPN reports Bellinger said, “I thought the apologizes were whatever. I thought [Jim] Crane’s was weak. I thought Manfred’s punishment was weak, giving ‘em immunity. I mean, these guys were cheating for three years. I think what people didn’t realize is Altuve stole an MVP from [Aaron] Judge in ‘17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.” It’s obvious Bellinger was upset since the Dodgers lost to the Astros in the 2017 WS. 

Mike Trout, center fielder for the (Los Angeles) Angels and arguably the best player in baseball, spoke his opinions on the scandal. “It’s sad for baseball. It’s tough. They cheated. I don’t agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything… I lost some respect for those guys,” Trout said. 

The scandal has brought up cheating as a problem in baseball at every level. Doyle knows it happens and the team has a strategy if it does happen. “If we see sign stealing we will change our signs for that series. Last year we switched the wristband signs for the batter and base runners and it was very successful,” said Doyle. 

Manfred tried to defend his decision of not revoking the Astros 2017 WS title, referring to the World Series title as just a “piece of metal.” Manfred has since apologized for this comment but it has shown players that this scandal is trying to be swept under the rug as if it never happened. 

It will take a long time for baseball to move on from this scandal. Rules will have to be set and teams will have to be restricted on technology usage during games. This scandal will forever have a black mark in Astros history and their 2017 WS title will forever be in question.