Houston Astros Cheating Scandal

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Maury Ahram

“The buck should stop at this scandal — it’s time that the MLB impose a punishment and install closer monitoring such that no team would be audacious enough to similarly cheat again,” said Benjamin Oestericher ‘20.

The pitcher looks to his catcher for a sign; the catcher puts down four fingers to one side of home plate. The duo hears a faint banging of something to their right, but pay little attention as the pitcher proceeds to throws the ball. But the banging wasn’t for them, the banging was for the batter; he now knows that the next pitch he sees won’t be a fastball.

The Houston Astros, fresh off losing the World Series and, afterward, losing All-Star pitcher Gerrit Cole to the New York Yankees, are having salt poured onto their raw wounds. 

Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich, reporters for The Athletic, announced that the Astros were cheating, and they had an insider testifying against the team. Mike Fiers, who pitched for Houston from 2015 to 2017, and an anonymous source told Rosenthal and Drellich that the Astros were using a camera in center field to observe the signs put down by the opponent’s catchers. When the stolen signs were captured by the Astros, they were quickly transmitted to a monitor outside the Astros’ dugout, decoded, and then sent via a banging signal to the batter. If there was banging from a trash can coming from the dugout, an offspeed pitch (slower with movement), if there was silence, then the next pitch would be a fastball. 

This kind of decoding of an opponent’s signs is a common occurrence in baseball. Unlike the Astros, however, most teams steal opponent’s signs when they have a runner on second base, which is on a straight line with the pitcher’s mound and home plate. To combat this, multiple iterations of signs have become commonplace during every at-bat, even without runners on base. But stealing signs the “old-fashioned” way is commonly accepted by some Major League Baseball (MLB) players. Washington Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle tweeted, “Sign stealing is part of baseball… If you can do it using your eye balls it’s ok. If you’re using technology it’s cheating.” 

Still, other players don’t view the problem through the same lens as Doolittle. Chicago White Sox catcher Yanmani Grandal has stated that the Astros are, “doing whatever they can to win. If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying, I guess.”

Students at Bronx Science also share mixed opinions on the subject. Benjamin Oestericher ’20  thinks that “the Astros’ cheating scandal is indicative of a larger problem in the MLB where teams are willing to bend or even break the rules to attain a competitive advantage…the fact that the Astros scandal was able to occur while their tactics were an open secret in the sport shows that the MLB has not done enough to investigate and discipline teams that cross the proverbial line.” However, Rayan Karim ’20 believes “that cheating enhances the experience of a sport. Cheaters force honest players to become better and the sport would never evolve if people didn’t break the rules.”

Major League Baseball has recently released their decision. The Astros have been fined $5 million and have lost their 1st and 2nd round draft picks in both 2020 and 2021. The Astros’ general manager Jeff Luhnow and team manager AJ Hinch have both been suspended by the MLB for one year and, consequently, have been fired by the Houston Astros. The MLB also announced that they are looking into the Red Sox’s team manager Alex Cora, who has been credited as the ‘mastermind’ behind the Astros scheme. 

“Sign stealing is part of baseball… If you can do it using your eye balls it’s ok. If you’re using technology it’s cheating,” said Pitcher Sean Doolittle.

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