The Houston Trashtros scandal

MLB facing biggest scandal since the Black Sox

The 2017 World Series champions may be an all-time cheat. (Wikicommons)

The Houston Astros are going down in flames as dirty cheats. The best team of the last three years has been exposed by former pitcher, Mike Fiers, for stealing signs using a center field camera and relaying the information to batters in the 2017 World Series championship season. The accusation opened the floodgates for league-wide reaction and collaborating accusations.

Scandals and baseball go hand and hand throughout history. From the 1919 Black Sox to the Pete Rose gambling ban to the steroid era, baseball has been tainted by cheating and foul play and every time a scandal hits, it is the commissioner’s and his committee’s job to investigate and find a punishment to match value their sport.

On November 11th, an interview article, by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, with the Oakland Athletics’ pitcher, Mike Fiers, claiming the Astros used a center field camera to relay the pitches to the team by banging on a trashcan located at the steps of the home dugout steps. This abrupt news shocked the fans, players, coaches, and reporters throughout the sport leading to an avalanche of accusations and questionable evidence found by fans and resulting in an investigation launched by MLB.

One Twitter user by the name of “Jomboy” made a video of an Astros and Whitesox game from 2017 showing the visuals of how the Astros were cheating.

Jomboy’s video was met with a wave of doubt by Houston fans to which Jomboy urged others to do their own research to find more evidence to which the internet did… quickly.

Along with video evidence of the consistent banging, Jomboy posted screenshots from the Astros’ 2017 World Series DVD showing the reported setup for sign stealing which would be taken down before the media could enter the dugout.

Many players took to Twitter to voice their opinion on the news.

On November 16th, Ken Rosenthal released a follow-up article of emails between Astros execs and scouts in 2017 discussing how the Astros can steal signs from beyond the field. The email asked scouts to experiment with cameras and binoculars and come back with their results.

The accusation evidence of the Astros sign-stealing by banging a trash can stop before the 2017 postseason to which many believe the Astros switched to other methods such as whistling.

Over the last three seasons, multiple teams have asked MLB to check on what the Astros were doing suspecting foul play. In 2018, The Boston Redsox new manager and former Astros bench coach asked MLB to investigate while the Cleveland Indians complained about an Astros employee taking pictures of their dugout during the American League Division Series. In 2019, the New York Yankees accused the Astros of using whistling in the first two games of the American League Championship Series and a flashing light in game six. The Washington Nationals would play the Astros next in the World Series and used a complex sign sequence through the seven-game series ultimately beating them. Each occasion, The MLB came back with some evidence but could not take action on the Astros.

Some MLB scouts and execs (some whom are being interviewed by MLB in the investigation) believe the Astros switched to buzzers that go on the player’s body resembling a bandage to indicate the pitches.

Commissioner of MLB, Rob Manfred, weighed in on the investigation stating “That investigation is going to encompass not only what we know about ’17, but also ’18 and ’19. We are talking to people all over the industry: Employees, competitors. To the extent that we find other leads, we’ll follow these leads.”

The Astros ranked 27th in fewest strikeouts in 2016 before leading baseball in fewest strikeouts in 2017, second in 2018 and leading again in 2019. One twitter user even found an obscure looking graph comparing every team’s Strikeout to walk ratio in the 2019 season with the Astros being a major outlier.

Many baseball experts and insiders believe the punishment the Houston Astros are facing could be one we have never seen in sports because of its clear advantages, impact, length of cheating and the fact that it is an entire organization participating.

Sign Stealing has always been apart of the game of baseball by runners on base checking in on the catcher and relaying the signs to the batter. The method as always been frowned upon by players but respected in its cause.

The use of technology to help players mid-game has been banned since the start of the century. In 2017, The Boston Redsox were fined for using apple watches to steal signs and the New York Yankees were fined for having a live feed of the game on the bullpen. To start the 2019 season, MLB issued more detailed rules for the use of technology during games.