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How did the Houston Astros cheating scandal happen?

Looking back on the sign-stealing cheating scandal by the Houston team which involved camera links and trashcan banging.

How did the Houston Astros cheating scandal happen?
Adam GlanzmanAFP

The Astros’ cheating scandal began early in 2017, however, it wasn’t until late 2019 when the MLB decided to start an official investigation into the Astros, following a story broken by two players on the Houston team that claimed they were stealing signs. The investigation was guided by a whistleblower, who was key in revealing certain information on how the cheating was being done. The whistleblower was ex-Astros pitcher Mike Fiers who signed with the Tigers before moving to the Athletics in a trade deal.

“That’s not playing the game the right way,” Fiers told The Athletic at the time.

Despite this information, the MLB didn’t begin the investigation until two years later. The scandal remained a secret between all of the teams, who were aware of the Astros’ cheating after rumors had started to spread in 2017 when White Sox reliever Danny Farquhar was suspected of trash-can banging.

“They were advanced and willing to go above and beyond to win.”

Mike Fiers

The illegal execution

The investigation report revealed by the MLB proved the Astros video room staff used game feed recorded with the center field camera to relay the opponent’s signs to Houston’s base runners on second base.

The way they relayed the signs varied. For example, when the runner was on the second base, they often used dugout personnel to reveal the signs to the runner on second who would then pass the message to the batter. Another means to reveal the signs was through bench coach Alex Cora’s smartwatch, which sometimes received information from the replay room.

Astros improve on cheating tactics

They didn’t always use a third person to cheat their way to a win. The players, who were all more-or-less involved, schemed a plan to improve their cheating tactics.

In this plan, manager Cora was in charge of setting up a monitor outside the dugout which showed the center field camera feed. After the setup, one of the players would watch it and read the signs of their opponents. Signs were later used to designate the batter by screaming, clapping, whistling, and in some cases by banging a trash can.

Nevertheless, this illegal technique stopped in 2018 following the rumors that were starting to spread after a player was suspected of signalling in that way.

Who was blamed for the scandal?

The MLB directly blamed players, some Houston staff, and Alex Cora.

“Virtually all of the Astros’ players had some involvement or knowledge of the scheme,” wrote the MLB.

However, just the manager and general manager were held accountable. With the players being exempt from any kind of discipline after claiming they would have stopped if the team manager had told them too. The MLB received a handful of critiques from baseball fans, who said cheating in MLB is cheap.

According to the report, the Houston Astros didn’t break any MLB rules after the 2017 season, therefore the team came out clean for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.


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