The Houston Astros sold their soul for a World Series. They won it all in 2017, but haven’t won a championship since, despite playoff berths in four of the last five seasons. The Astros proved they’ll stop at nothing short of cheating to help them win a World Championship.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic unearthed this latest revelation in a fascinating expose about the Houston Astros stealing signs electronically during the 2017 season. Rosenthal spoke with former Astros players who attest to the team cheating to gain an advantage at the plate.
This method was confirmed by former Astro Mike Fiers and involved an in-stadium camera watching opposing catcher’s signs, relaying that feed to a monitor near the dugout and giving the batter an audio cue — like banging a garbage can — to let the batter know whether to anticipate a breaking ball or off-speed pitch.
Sounds too crazy to be true, right? Almost as ridiculous as the Blue Jays being accused of having a “man in white” in the stands relaying catcher signs to hitters. While the latter was never proven to be true, the Astros are in a heap of hot water for their part in electronic sign stealing.
The “man in white” thing may have been hearsay around baseball, but there’s blatant evidence that the Astros were cheating in 2017. Jomboy did the lord’s work earlier this week and broke down one of the at bats mentioned in Rosenthal’s piece. This at bat between Danny Farquhar and Evan Gattis illustrates the banging noise that Rosenthal alluded to in his investigation.
Astros using cameras to steal signs, a breakdown pic.twitter.com/rncm6qzXxw
— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) November 12, 2019
But this is only one at bat from one Astros game during the 2017 season. This was not an isolated incident, because the Astros used this sign stealing method during another game against the Blue Jays. During this Marcus Stroman start on August 6, 2017, the Astros “banged the drum” 27 times.
Yes, I listened back to all the Astros at bats from this game and pinpointed 16 at bats and 27 occasions of the garbage can banging noise. There were likely a few more instances from this game, but it was difficult to discern whether it was the banging noise in question.
I'm sure it's purely coincidental there were banging noises before each of these pitches from this Blue Jays-Astros game in 2017. pic.twitter.com/FLevUbzKnj
— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) November 13, 2019
It’s a little difficult to pick up the noise through speakers or on a phone alone, which is why I’d recommend you listen through headphones, which makes the drumming noise clear as day. It’s no accident that this noise happens before every pitch in this sequence.
As you might recall, the Astros trailed 6-3 in this game heading into the ninth inning, only to storm back for four runs in the bottom of the ninth for a walk-off win. Coincidentally, the banging noise was heard during Alex Bregman’s game-tying triple and twice during Juan Centeno’s game-winning single.
Sign stealing is nothing new in baseball. Every team does it, with varying degrees of success. But using electronic aids to relay catcher signs to players should be grounds for serious punishment from Major League Baseball.
In retrospect, this method is so blatant that it’s no wonder people didn’t pick up on it sooner. If these noises were caught on the TV cameras, then the opposing players and umpires heard these noises, too.
Former Blue Jays first base coach Tim Leiper may have sent fans down a rabbit hole since he estimates there are countless cases of the Astros using this strategy against the Blue Jays and other teams. Leiper notes that having this intel doesn’t guarantee success, but it gives opposing hitters a distinct advantage.
You can literally check a lot of games, and other teams. Even when you know what is coming, it’s still hard to hit. It does swing the odds a lot more in your favour though. MLB has done nothing but lip service to fix this.
— @tleiper34 (@tleiper34) November 13, 2019
Just when you think the Houston Astros organization couldn’t get more deplorable, they did.