Astros Stole Signs Against Detroit Tigers, Michael Fulmer in 2017
The Houston Astros are in the middle of a scandal. Last week, ex-Astros and ex-Detroit Tigers pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic that the Houston Astros used a camera to steal signs in their 2017 World Series championship season.
The act of stealing signs in baseball is as old as signs themselves, but using an electronic means (a camera and a video monitor) to steal them is against the rules and deserves to be disciplined.
The Astros' setup allegedly used a camera in centerfield to watch the catcher's signs. The feed from that camera was hooked up to a monitor near the dugout. Once the sign was decoded via the monitor, a garbage can would be struck with a baseball bat. The number of times the garbage can was hit would indicate to the batter which pitch was coming.
The Astros say they have "begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball." Hilarious. The elaborate sign-stealing scheme was far from secretive within their own dugout and clubhouse.
The biggest argument against punishing the Astros seems to be the "everyone is doing it" argument. It's the same thinking which allowed steroids to overtake baseball. If Major League Baseball issues a severe punishment, that punishment could lead to others coming forward about other teams. Cheating in baseball has been normalized for decades through corked bats, doctored baseballs, electronic sign stealing, steroids and more. Maybe it's time for that to stop.
The sign stealing, which by most accounts began in 2017 and continued through 2019, helped Houston's hitters move from having one of the highest strikeout rates in the league to having one of the lowest strikeout rates in the league.
In 2018, Houston's hitters ranked second in the league in fewest strikeouts per game. They led MLB in 2019.
In the video below you can hear the sound Houston's batters would listen for to know which pitch is coming.
The Astros employed the same bang-on-a-garbage-can technique against the Detroit Tigers on May 22, 2017. You'll hear one bang before the pitch here in the 7th inning at 2:11:08 of the video. I'm sure you'll find more if you watch the full game.
Houston "won" the game 1-0.
Like many Detroit Tigers fans, I've enjoyed rooting for Justin Verlander and the Astros since the Tigers traded Verlander to Houston. Not going to be able to do that anymore. Sorry, Justin.