MLB Sign Stealing Scandal

Rebecca Soto, Staff Writer

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Major League Baseball (MLB) has released a report January 13, confirming that the Houston Astros cheated by stealing signs in 2017 through early 2018. Former Astros pitcher, Mike Fiers, revealed in an interview with The Athletic that the Astros had illegally stolen signs. MLB interviewed many current and former Astros players and reviewed e-mails and phone clips. MLB Commissioner, Robert Manfred, led the investigation and explained that the Astros were cooperative in the process. 

“The Astros fully cooperated with the investigation, producing all requested electronic communications and making all requested employees available for interviews,” said Manfred. 

The investigation revealed that the Astros used cameras on the opposing team’s catchers, and used a live feed to interpret the signs. They would bang on trash cans, whistle and clap to let the batter know what pitch was coming. The Boston Red Sox were also accused of cheating and their investigation is still underway. Alex Cora was Houston’s bench coach in 2017 and the Red Sox Manager since 2018 and had a large role in the scandal. 

“[Cora is] said to have called down to the video room to get signs early in 2017, which constitutes improper usage of a dugout phone, and he is also the only non-player mentioned by name who had a role in devising the garbage can system,” Mike Axisa from CBS Sports said. 

Boston players would go to the replay room, decode the signs and pass the information to the dugout. Then a player would inform a baserunner, who would use body movements to communicate with the batter was the next pitch was going to be. Apple Watches were also used to get a closer look at the opponent’s signs. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers corporation and fans were devastated by the cheating news. Some pitchers received unwarranted backlash from their performance in the World Series when unknowingly their signs were being stolen. The Los Angeles City Council requested that the MLB give the 2017 and 2018 World Series titles to the Dodgers who made it to the World Series two years in a row without cheating. However, some Dodgers players have expressed that although they don’t feel like the Astros earned their title, they don’t want it. 

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

As a result of the cheating scandal, the Astros’ staff faced several consequences. And despite the sign-stealing being mostly player-driven, no players were punished. It would be nearly impossible to figure out exactly which players were involved, and which were not. 

Astros owner, Jim Crane, was unaware of the cheating. 

Crane is extraordinarily troubled and upset by the conduct of members of his organization, fully supported my investigation, and provided unfettered access to any and all information requested,” Manfred said. 

The Astros’ manager, A.J. Hinch was suspended for one year by the MLB, but ultimately fired by  Crane. The General Manager, Jeff Luhnow was also suspended for one year, but then fired by the Astros. “Regardless of the level of Luhnow’s actual knowledge, the Astros’ violation of rules in 2017 and 2018 is attributable, in my view, to a failure by the leaders of the baseball operations department and the field manager to adequately manage the employees under their supervision,” Manfred said. Houston has hired Dusty Baker as a new General Manager. Baker was the Nationals’ General Manager in 2017.  Former assistant general manager, Brandon Taubman, was also suspended for one year. The Astros were fined $5 million, the maximum under the MLB’s Constitution, and forfeit their first and second-round draft picks for the next two years. 

As for the Red Sox, their investigation is still being looked into, so their punishment is not yet confirmed. But due to the scandal, Cora is no longer with the Red Sox. 

“We agreed today that parting ways was the best thing for the organization,” Cora said in an interview. 

MLB has made it clear that they do not want this to happen again. If cheating continues they explained they will make the punishments more severe. But they hope this experience can help baseball organizations learn and grow.