The Houston Astros: More On Their Ongoing MLB Sign-Stealing Scandal

Scott Sorensen, Staff Writer

In the last month, a shocking round of allegations has shaken Major League Baseball. The Houston Astros, World Series champions in 2017 and 2019, are under fire for having a complex system for stealing signs. Stealing signs is when players watch a catcher’s hand motions to the pitcher, which indicate what pitch will be thrown next. It’s not much of a problem when it’s small–according to former players, a player standing on second stealing signs and notifying the batter is common. However, nobody has ever stolen signs in the MLB the way the Houston Astros have. 

In their home ballpark, a camera system was set up in center field so that they could see the catcher’s motions. It was rigged up to a monitor in the dugout where the coach watched the signs and informed the player. The player then banged on a trash can a specific number of times to tell the batter what pitch will be thrown. 

There have also been rumors of electronic buzzers and equipment worn under players’ jerseys, but none of those claims have been confirmed. According to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, his organization’s sign-stealing investigation was the most extensive and thorough ever conducted by the MLB.

Almost all of the players were granted immunity against punishment via their testimony about how the sign stealing worked, but many other individuals have not been so lucky. AJ Hinch, the club’s manager; Alex Cora, the bench coach; and Dave Dombrowski, president of Red Sox baseball operations at the time of the scandal, have all been implicated. Cora and Hinch have received one-year suspensions from working in the MLB and have since been fired from their respective teams. Dombrowski has not yet been penalized but is likely the next target. Jim Crane, the owner of the Astros, believes the penalties should be even tougher and is ashamed of what his team did. 

This scandal is especially troubling with the knowledge that the sign-stealing system was up and running during the Astros’ 2017 World Series victory. 

So how did this scandal come up in the first place? A man named Jimmy O’Brien posted a series of videos to Twitter that showed clear evidence of sign stealing, and the rest was investigated by Major League Baseball. 

Photo Courtesy of Sam Boime

Pulling information from highlight reels and other Astros fans, O’Brien says that he “didn’t break this news. [He] helped accelerate it, and helped people really see”.

So what does this mean for the future of baseball? es. Gamblers are furious about bets made on rigged games, and purists are unhappy about the purity of the game being tarnished. 

“At the very least, all of DraftKings’ fantasy baseball contests from early in the 2017 baseball season through the end of the 2018 regular season and into the 2019 season were tainted by cheating and compromised,” said one lawsuit against the accused teams. 

Beyond gambling, celebrities like Ken Griffey Jr., a former superstar on the Seattle Mariners and baseball Hall-of-Famer, have spoken out against the scandal. They are worried about the increasing role of technology in baseball and especially grow fearful thinking about the future. 

“It worries me a little—I don’t feel like I’m ever gonna know if the game is clean or not,” said one MHS student. 

Luckily, the MLB is determined not to let this happen. With talk of stricter penalties for sign stealers and already increased vigilance against this kind of cheating, everyone is being more careful about stopping any future scandals.