Houston, We Have a (Sign-Stealing) Problem. Again.

The Houston Astros find themselves in the news for their second sign-stealing scandal in two years. How the team and Major League Baseball respond will shape the future of professional baseball as we know it.

The Houston Astros have recently been exposed to stealing signs during the team’s championship season in 2017. (Via Wikimedia Roy Luck)

Last week, ex-pitcher for the Houston Astros Mike Fiers told The Athletic that the Astros used a center field camera to illegally steal signs during the team’s championship season in 2017. In that year’s World Series, the Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games to win their first-ever title.

According to The Athletic, in 2017, the Astros placed a camera at center field, pointed at the opposing catcher. The camera feed went directly to the Astros’ clubhouse, where the players and coaches could watch, decode the catcher’s signs and provide the batter with advance knowledge of the incoming pitch. 

This is not the first offense of illegally using technology to steal signs in Major League Baseball. In 2017, the Boston Red Sox were fined for using Apple Watches to steal signs from the New York Yankees. The Astros have even been in this situation before — during the 2018 postseason, an Astros employee was caught filming into their opponent’s dugout. 

Before the start of the 2019 season, the MLB passed a new rule banning teams from having cameras beyond the outfield fences focused on the catcher’s signs.

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In addition to the sign-stealing scandal, the Astros have also been in the headlines recently for an outburst from their former assistant general manager. After winning the American League Championship Series, assistant GM Brandon Taubman screamed, “Thank God we got [Roberto] Osuna! I’m so f-cking glad we got Osuna!” at three female reporters in the Astros clubhouse. Osuna, the closer for the Astros, had previously served a 75-game suspension after being arrested for domestic abuse. 

Despite having a roster filled with fan favorites such as second baseman José Altuve, ace pitcher Justin Verlander and shortstop Carlos Correa, the Astros have gone from one of the league’s most lovable teams to one of the easiest to hate. In order to regain trust in the league, the Astros must admit guilt, apologize and take responsibility for their actions. 

Whether other teams have also engaged in sign stealing, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred must punish the Astros — if they are found guilty — for the sake of fairness in the league, for the sake of baseball fans and, most importantly, for the integrity of the game.=

Email Arvind Sriram at [email protected]

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