Sports analyst Callie Hummel discussing the resurgence of allegations against the Houston Astros.
The Houston Astros, a team commonly known for their sign stealing scandal that recently came to the surface in January 2020, is in the news again—livid that the White Sox would accuse them of sign stealing.
While sign stealing is not technically against the rules of Major League Baseball, it is highly frowned upon, especially when high class technology is used. The Astros used such technology in their 2017 post-season play, the year they won the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mike Fiers, a pitcher who played for the Astros in 2017, came forward saying that the team used a telephoto lens sitting in the stands behind center field to send live video feed of the catcher’s signs to the coaches who would then alert their batters of the next pitch.
The baseball world was naturally furious with the team. If batters know exactly which pitch is coming as they step up to the plate, there is no longer a reason for pitchers and catchers to spend such large amounts of time learning signs that change with every game they play, although the different pitches themselves may throw off a batter from a technical standpoint.
This sign stealing strategy could only be executed when the Astros played at home however, resulting in suspicious scores and weird patterns in their wins and losses. These patterns were what originally sent red flags to the MLB community, who had been hinting at a possibility of sign stealing years before Fiers came forward. For example, in 2017, the Astros beat the New York Yankees by two runs every time they played at home, and lost by five runs on average at every away game. While teams are more comfortable playing in their own city and on their own field, the Astro’s took “home field advantage” to a whole new level.
In the 2021 season, the Astros finished up a series against the Chicago White Sox and went on to beat the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship series. Now, the Astros are heading into their third World Series in the past 5 Major League seasons.
The third game of the series was played in Chicago and the White Sox ended up winning 16-6. In a post-game interview, Ryan Tepera, a pitcher for the White Sox, commented that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Astros were still sign stealing given the difference in scores and “the swings and misses tonight compared to the first two games at Minute Maid.”
While the overarching ‘Astros’ are known for sign stealing, after the scandal came to the surface the team fired its general manager and manager who had allowed the cheating to happen. The team also had a $5 million fine, lost four of their high draft picks and made the baseball community go on high alert against them, so it’s unlikely to say the Astros would go back to stealing signs just one season after they were caught.
The new team manager, Dusty Baker, replied to the comment by Tepera saying that what he was accusing of the team were, “heavy accusations.” However, they were the same ‘heavy accusations’ brought upon the team in January of 2020 that came out as true.
As the team moves past in the league championships, there will undoubtedly be many eyes on them during the World Series this year. However, it is possible that if they are continuing to use a different strategy to steal signs, we will not know until years later when someone else comes forward.