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The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy


The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy


The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy


Stealing A Win? How the Houston Astros Cheated on Baseball’s Biggest Stage

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Slider photo by Ilana Fingersh.

Amid recent whistleblowing and scandals, the Houston Astros have been charged with cheating on baseball’s biggest stage: the World Series. Reports have said that the Astros were stealing signs: using electronic devices to capture the signs the opposing team’s catcher is giving their pitcher. Both players and managers alike are feeling the repercussions, and there has even been talk about revoking the Astros’ championship. But the Astros weren’t the first team to cheat, and they certainly won’t be the last. So how far are high-ranking athletic teams willing to go to steal a win, and in the grand scheme of the game, does it really matter?

In baseball, before each pitch, the catcher gives a signal to his pitcher, telling him what pitch to throw. Stealing signs by simply observing the catcher or watching him talk to the pitcher is permitted, but Major League Baseball (MLB) prohibits the use of electronic devices to steal signs. If the Astros had cameras recording this exchange, it would be quite easy for them to predict the pitch and respond accordingly. 

Former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers publicly spoke to The Athletic and MLB about the scandal, but interestingly enough, many people in the baseball world are more mad at him than they are at the Astros. Sure, the Astros cheated, and this would be a big deal in any game, let alone in the World Series, but cheating in the sports world is nothing new. 

However, the way the scandal came to light has caught the eyes of former coaches and players across the country: Fiers waited until “after he got the ring and the playoff check,” and then decided to “drop the dime on guys that were supposed to be [his] friends,” says LaTroy Hawkins, a former MLB pitcher, as reported by USA Today. This sentiment is echoed throughout the baseball world and even in other professional sports, as famous players are disgusted with this scandal as well as how it came to light.

” In baseball, before each pitch, the catcher gives a signal to his pitcher, telling him what pitch to throw.” Photo by Ilana Fingersh

So how were the Astros able to pull off cheating in baseball games both in the 2017 playoffs and throughout the 2018 season? The team positioned a camera in centerfield, and team personnel would watch the live video feed in the tunnel between the dugout and the clubhouse. After first experimenting with whistling and clapping to relay the message to the hitter, the Astros eventually landed on banging on a garbage can. No bangs corresponded to a fastball, while either one or two bangs would mean an offspeed pitch. Fans and analysts have combined footage from across games and in fact, a banging can be heard in the background during at-bats. 

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a full statement after the investigation of the Astros took place. In this statement, it is detailed that discipline would not be handed down to any of the Astros players, but instead to their manager and general manager. A.J. Hinch and Jeff Lunhow, the manager and general manager respectively, were given one season suspensions from MLB and were subsequently fired by the Astros organization. In addition, the Astros forfeit their first and second round draft picks for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. MLB has made it clear that this kind of large-scale cheating will not be tolerated, as many people have lost their jobs as a result of this scandal. 

Most of the position players on the team had some sort of participation in the scheme, and those who were not a direct part of it were still aware of its occurrence. Many members of the Astros even realized that “they knew [it] was wrong because it crossed the line” of what they believed was fair, says Manfred. At one point in the season, an opposing pitcher seemed to suspect something was happening, and “there was a sense of ‘panic’” in the dugout, as the players were all afraid of getting caught, the report continues.

Second baseman for the Astros, Jose Altuve, apologized for alleged use of electronic devices to steal signs. Photo by Ilana Fingersh.

It is important to note that although the Astros cheated, this did not define the World Series. It’s crucial to remember that “the Astros had a better road record…(.654 winning percentage) than home record…(.593 winning percentage),” and that they still had to win games on the road where they wouldn’t have their cameras, says Astros fan Todd Stewart. 

There are other aspects to the game besides hitting, and the Astros excelled in these areas without electronic help. Their raw talent was arguably one of the best in the league, aiding them in defense, base running, and pitching. But, “having said that, they broke the rules, and even the biggest Astros fan has to be a realist,” Stewart concludes.

Since the scandal, the Astros have known that “the truth comes out at some point,” and they have been preparing for that day since they first started banging the trash cans, says Astros shortstop Carlos Correa in an interview with Sports Illustrated. The apologies they have issued have been embarrassing and insulting to people across the baseball community. The front office of the Astros can’t decide which story to tell: Did the players have a role, or were they innocent? Did the cheating impact the game, or would they have won the World Series regardless? If the players knew about the cheating, why did they go unpunished? The Astros want to leave this scandal behind, but that is proving difficult to do when stories from across the organization don’t line up.

But yes, no matter how you look at it, they still cheated, and they are just one of many teams around the world to do so. It wasn’t okay when they did it, and it isn’t okay that the Astros did it, but the difference here is that the Astros got caught. Many teams don’t get caught, and continue to cheat. As much as the leagues try to regulate and put a stop to it, cheating is a problem that will continue to impact the game. In the competitive world of professional sports, everybody is looking for a leg up, and although it was illegal, Houston was doing what they felt they needed to do to come away with a win.

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