While speculation about where superstar pitchers Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg are going to land this winter is heating up, there’s a different righty who made headlines on Tuesday.
Oakland A’s starting pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic that the Astros were electronically stealing signs during the 2017 season. The season, of course, ended with Houston winning the World Series.
Fiers, who pitched in Houston from 2015-17, claims the Astros used a center field camera to record other team’s catchers in order to steal their signs — a violation of the very MLB rule that prohibits clubs from using electronic equipment to steal signs.
Confused by how all this went down? Check out baseball podcaster Jomboy’s break down of the situation. He shows how the Astros were able to relay stolen signs from the dugout to the batter mid-at-bat.
The Astros, who have been criticized in the past for, well… let’s call them ‘controversial press releases,’ announced that the organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with the MLB but provided no further comment.
While the Astros are enjoying a golden age on the field, everything they have accomplished to this point — including the 2017 World Series championship — will be clouded with doubt.
However, let’s not assume this is exclusively an Astros problem. This ordeal has highlighted a major problem for the MLB as a whole. It would be ignorant for any baseball fan to believe that the Astros are the only organization using electronics to get an upper hand on their opponents. The Astros are merely the first team to get caught, and what the MLB does next will set a precedent for how future situations will be handled as technology continues to influence baseball.
The MLB could try to unplug and prohibit teams from utilizing technology in-game like barring replay monitors from the dugout. But as the 2019 World Series umps proved, fans are ready to embrace technology, not move away from it.
So the MLB must try to protect against future occurrences of electronic sign stealing and make an example out of Houston. Stripping the Astros of their 2017 World Championship feels too extreme, but significant fining and revoking future draft picks could be a sufficient slap on the wrist.
The path the MLB will take to solve this issue is not clear. However, one thing is: a potential Houston Astros dynasty will forever be met with distrust and skepticism.