Just in case you’ve been living underneath a rock lately, former Houston Astros pitcher Mike Fiers came out on Tuesday, November 12th and stated that the team used a camera to steal signs in the 2017 postseason. This was and still is very shocking news even two days later, as the Astros went on to win the World Series that year when they beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in 7 games.
Many people don’t know the details of exactly how the Astros cheated, though, or what the rule even really is about stealing signs. In this article, I’m going to go over all of that for you.
How the signs were being stolen
Okay, so in order to understand everything about this scandal, we first have to understand how they were doing it. If the accusations are correct, the Astros had a camera set up in center field in their home ballpark that focused on the catcher. They would look at a live video of this camera angle and look at the pitch signs that were being thrown.
When the sign was figured out, someone in the dugout would then create a banging noise by hitting something in the dugout if it was an off-speed pitch, specifically a change-up from what I’m seeing. This would alert the pitcher of an off-speed pitch and would tell him to adjust his swing time to the pitch. Many of the videos I’ve seen breaking it down have resulted in either hits that provided RBI’s, or they just resulted in a home run for the hitter.
There are plenty videos that break down exactly what was going on, but the guy that does the best job is a Twitter user by the name of “Jomboy.” Here is a link to the first video he posted breaking down an Evan Gattis at-bat against the White Sox.
As you can see, almost every time a changeup is thrown, you can hear a banging sound, and every time a fastball is thrown, there is no bang. After the pitcher realizes what is happening, he calls for another changeup, listens for a bang, and steps off so he can change the signs with his catcher. After they change the signs, he throws a changeup, there’s no banging sound, and Gattis strikes out by swinging on a changeup that was low.
There are plenty of other videos he posts as well dealing with this, including at-bats by Bregman, Altuve, Springer, and another separate Gattis at-bat.
Why this is such a big deal
The biggest argument that it’s not a big deal that the Astros stole signs is the argument that every other team does it to some degree. While yes, that is probably accurate, it mainly is done with pitch-tipping with the other 29 teams. Houston was stealing signs electronically, which is against MLB rules, as it’s considering using technology to get an unfair advantage in the sport.
Pitch-tipping, if you don’t know, is figuring out a pitcher’s tells about what kind of pitch they are throwing and using that to your advantage. It can be done with the naked eye so there’s no reason to use technology to pick up on a pitcher’s tells.
Another instance of using technology to steal signs happened with another team in 2017, as the Red Sox were found to be stealing signs using an apple watch. They were fined an undisclosed amount of money by the commissioner’s office as punishment. It was then stated in the same press conference that any team that was found to have violated the regulation being discussed that day would have a much harsher punishment, including heftier fines and potential loss of draft picks.
Had the Astros not gone on to win the World Series that year, we may be looking at something similar to that. But, since they did go on to win it all that year, we could potentially be looking at a much heftier punishment, especially if it is proven that they cheated against the Dodgers in the actual World Series that season.
When all is set and done, the MLB will do the right thing. If they do find the Astros did in fact use a camera to steal signs, they could be facing some hefty penalties that could potentially include a stripping of their 2017 World Series Title.