In an article written in The Athlete, former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers admitted that the Astros cheated in the 2017 World Series by stealing the catcher’s signs. Fiers’ confession prompted a probe of the team by Major League Baseball, as well as an uproar by fans and the media.
Fiers’ confession was verified by the probe: Baseball players frequently try to decipher the signs given by the opposing catcher to the pitcher in order to anticipate the next pitch. This can give a team a major advantage, but is not always illegal. The Astros, however, violated the rules of Major League Baseball by using technology to discover the signs. They used a camera in center field, which was relayed directly to a screen in the dugout. The team then communicated signs by banging a nearby trash can during the game to send messages to the hitter. The MLB report released Jan. 13th solely focused on their illegal playing from 2017-2018 and they stopped using these methods in the 2018 season because the players believed it was not “effective”.
In baseball, teams are permitted to challenge one call a game though a video replay system and each team has their own replay review room. The Astro’s exploited this access to camera feeds and used the center-field camera to steal signs.
“Early in that season, which culminated with a World Series title for the Astros, the bench coach, Cora, would call the video review room to get the signs. On some occasions, the signs were relayed via text messages to either a smartphone in the dugout or a smartwatch of a staff member, the report said. Cora eventually arranged for a television monitor to be installed immediately outside the Astros’ dugout with the center-field camera feed on it for the players to watch, M.L.B investigators said,” according to the New York Times in an article about the scandal.
Many were affected by this major scandal. Later week Cora was fired from the Boston Red Sox, the team he moved to after his tenure in Houston. American baseball coach and manager, AJ Hinch and team manager, Jeff Luhnow were both suspended by the MLB for the next season and subsequently fired by the team. Hinch and Luhnow were the backbone of the team and a principal reason for their success. For Jim Crane, the team owner, however, there was no evidence of him knowing any information on the illegal activity.
“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, “wrote Robert Manfred in the MLB report
MLB is also investigating the Boston Red Sox because of Alex Cora being chief of the entire scandal and was working with the team until the report came out. The Red Sox also won the World Series against the Dodgers in the following year which is another aspect to suspicion being raised.
There were few penalties preceding the revelation of the cheating scandal. A $5 million dollar fine was to be paid which is the highest allowable under MLB rules. The team will also have no first or second round draft picks in 2020 and 2021. The 2017 World Title however, will remain the same with the Astros having won. None of the players were penalized directly during this process, which has also caused some commotion in the media.
“Isn’t a tarnished reputation enough? That’s the question a longtime manager posed when asked if the penalties were enough to serve as a deterrent for other teams, making the point that Luhnow and Hinch could struggle to work in baseball again and might never hold such high-profile positions.” wrote ABC Eyewitness News.
As for the Dodgers, most of them have stayed silent throughout this process. However, David Freese, a former infielder for the team, tweeted Monday, “Didn’t really expect the punishments to be this harsh. Good for MLB stepping up. Still don’t know what’s more frustrating tho, an ex teammate of the WS title team talking publicly about his team cheating or so many guys being down to use a damn trash can lol. Should take the ring.” Freese compares the situation and evaluates which one is worse: the cheating of his prior teammates or Fiers outting the team.