The Astros stole signs electronically throughout the 2017 season, a former player said
On Tuesday, Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic published an article detailing how the Houston Astros electronically stole signs during the 2017 season. Within the piece, Drellich and Rosenthal reveal that four people who were with the Astros then have admitted the team stole signs during games by using a camera positioned in the outfield. Current Oakland Athletics pitcher Mike Fiers, who spent parts of three seasons with the Astros, is the only one of the four to go on the record.
More information connected to the story has since came to light. As a public service of sorts, we wanted to provide a guide to the most frequently asked questions concerning the story.
What did the Astros do?
As noted in the introduction, the Astros used a camera positioned in center field to steal signs during games. Team personnel would watch the feed in a hallway between the clubhouse and dugout, and would relay what was coming by hitting a garbage can. You can watch it play out for yourself here.
When did they do it?
In Drellich and Rosenthal’s piece, they note that a source said it was likely too loud to use the garbage can system during the World Series, and that they weren’t able to enact this system for away games.
Still, Tyler Stafford of Baseball Prospectus found evidence that the Astros used their system throughout the 2017 season. Meanwhile, Reddit user “ryanmull1089” posted video suggesting the Astros used a similar system in the 2017 World Series — but with a whistle in place of the banging.
Why is this a big deal?
Because it’s against the rules — and not just in the “unwritten” sense, like old-school sign stealing. Baseball took explicit steps to ban this kind of behavior heading into the 2019 season, limiting the amount of live-feed access available to teams, and not permitting in-house cameras between the foul poles.
Don’t other teams do this?
It stands to reason that every team tries stealing signs. That’s part of the game. The issue is how signs are being stolen — and that the Astros took things too far in their pursuit of an advantage.
Even so, it should be noted the Astros are not the only team to cross the line. The Boston Red Sox, for example, were caught using an Apple Watch to steal signs during the 2017 season.
There have undoubtedly been other instances over the years where teams have stolen signs using technology that either went undetected or unreported. The Astros may be the latest team busted, but they won’t be the last.
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