Anyone who is a Houston Astros fan must vividly remember their 2017 season. They would have watched how their team rose from the ground and did not stand in the shadow of the Rangers any longer, how they went on to eliminate the 27-time champions, the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) and finally… how they won the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
You wouldn’t have to be an Astros fan to give them credit for what they did that season. But… what if it was all a lie?
If you follow MLB, you would have heard about the breakout story that surfaced this past November. What started as allegations of the Astros cheating in their 2017 season led to reports, investigations and proof. Now, not only do the Astros have their reputation on the line, but potentially their 2017 title, too. How did this all begin?
Earlier in the month, two journalists named Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal published an article in The Athletic stating that the Astros electronically stole signs during their 2017 season.
Every catcher and pitcher has code symbols. The catcher may do a sequence of hand movements and it indicates to the pitcher what to throw. Sign stealing is when the other team takes note of what the catcher is telling the pitcher to throw, and uses it to their advantage to have a heads up of the pitch. Sign stealing is nothing new, in fact it dates back to 1897 when the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies used binoculars to see what the catcher was doing. Sign stealing is also not necessarily illegal – but it becomes illegal with the use of electronics.
After the initial accusations, pitcher Mike Fiers who spent three seasons with the Astros went on record to say the Astros stole signs using a camera positioned in the outfield. “They were advanced and willing to go above and beyond to win,” Fiers said.
This sparked the wildfire of rumors and video evidence that would soon lead to an investigation. Allegedly, the team would watch the footage in the dugout and hit a garbage can to alert the batter of what was to come. Tons of videos have surfaced on the Internet where a distinct banging noise could be heard following a batter right on top of the pitch.
Most of the videos come from baseball writer Jimmy O’Brien, otherwise known as Jomboy. With the help of his 179.6K Twitter followers, Jomboy collected old footage and compiled evidence in a video describing the story in detail. He even shows a picture of the alleged garbage can in its damaged state.
It’s also rumored that the Astros used other tactics such as whistleblowing at games where they didn’t have home field advantage. Ironically, this past October the Yankees, who were again eliminated by the Astros in the ALCS, expressed anger over whistling in the series.
So, where does MLB go from here? While the proof pointing to the Astros cheating is pretty strong, it’s important to note that they haven’t yet been convicted. The Astros are cooperating with investigations and MLB is in the process of interviewing former and current players and coaches. The punishment will likely depend on how honest everyone is during the investigation. Will the Astros get their only World Series title stripped? It’s possible. But it’s also possible that they might just get a slap on the wrist. The Astros aren’t the first team that’s gotten caught and they won’t be the last.
The whole controversy is more disappointing than anything else, especially for a big fan of baseball. If it’s true, it makes you wonder what really would have happened in 2017. Would the Astros have even made it to the playoffs? Who really deserved to win the World Series that year? Not to mention, even though these videos are from the 2017 season, who is to say the Astros didn’t cheat in 2018 and 2019 too? Three years of baseball could have been completely different than the way they were.
No matter what the verdict is, baseball fans all around need to hope that this blow up was big enough for teams to realize sign stealing is wrong – and to go back to the traditional baseball that everyone loves and adores.