Stealing signs is nothing new. In fact, stealing signs from an opponent has taken place since the beginning of baseball. A piece of history that has and will continue to take down some of the “greatest” known baseball players for 144 years, dating back to the founding days of the National League in 1876.
It wasn’t the simple old school technique of stealing signs that ended up with a GM and two managers getting fired from their professional teams – no, it was the new modern age way of stealing that has found it’s place in the ugliest part of modern day baseball. The mythical buzzers, the banging of trashcans, whispers in passing as a player trades the illegal secret to his teammate.
The 1919 World Series has two new family members, two new friends in the baseball history books – the 2017 and 2018 World Series. Two dark spots in the midst of an American pastime. Something our children and grandchildren will read about or watch documentaries on. “Did that really happen? Were all the players at fault? Is that guy as unlucky as Shoeless Joe Jackson?”
On November 12, 2019, former Houston Astros player Mike Fiers publicly alleged in an article by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic stating that his previous team had used sign-stealing methods that violated MLB rules. And what nobody realized at the time, Fiers had started a fire that would unravel the seams of baseball.
“I treat these allegations with the utmost seriousness, and I instructed our Department of Investigations to conduct a thorough investigation. I believe transparency with our fans and our Clubs.”Robert Manfred, Statement of the Commissioner
It all started in the early days of the 2017 season. The Astros’ video replay review room began to use the live game feed from the center field camera to attempt to decode and transmit sign sequences from the Houston team’s opponent. Bench Coach Alex Cora (he would later lose his manager position with the Boston Red Sox) began to call the review room to obtain sign information.
It didn’t end there – the Astros took it to an entirely different playing field. They used the technology during the 2017 World Series, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers. The technology continued into the 2018 season without a second thought. The World Series Champions were frauds, celebrating with a parade, with fans surrounding them with love – while the Los Angeles Dodgers continued to be known as the team that choked in October.
General Manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch were suspended for the 2020 season on Monday, January 13, 2020. Moments later after the news broke, Jim Crane, the owner of the Astros took it a step further and fired both Luhnow and Hinch. “We need to move forward with a clean slate.” He said during Monday’s press conference.
The Astros will lose first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021 because of their actions. The organization will also be fined $5 million. According to MLB, if Luhnow or Hinch were to “engage in any future material violations,” of MLB rules, they would be placed on the permanent ineligible list with the likes of Shoeless Joe, Lefty Williams, Pete Rose, and Chris Correa (who had ties with the St. Louis Cardinals and Astros).
It didn’t end with Luhnow and Hinch. Instead, the fire continued to spread like the Black Plague. Former Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s fate would soon be told on Tuesday night. While he was not originally disciplined, he and the Red Sox “mutually” parted ways. His team and fans alike mourned the loss of what could have been – if only Cora hadn’t been involved.
In the investigation, Cora was cited with using the video replay room in the 2018 season and into the World Series while managing the Red Sox. Once again, the Los Angeles Dodgers were the chokers of October and the AL team reigned supreme.
As of today, the final blow came to the New York Mets – a team that, if anything, has not been involved in the scandal by use of the replay room. They were dealt with a bad hand when (former) manager Carlos Beltran was named in the investigation. Beltran, a former member of the 2017 Astros was implicated by Manfred as one to use the decoding signs.
Originally, Beltran and the Mets declined to comment according to Harold Kaufman, but the fire by Fiers violently erupted. After a day that should have been glorified for the Mets after renaming a street after Mike Piazza, Beltran and the team “mutually” parted ways.
Baseball fans, players, and writers have taken to social media – some backing the teams, the players and managers while others make the entire situation into a giant meme. The truth is, the scandal can only hurt or grow the game of baseball. The damage from Fiers’ fire has been done. With spring training starting up next month, the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox and guilty by association New York Mets will try and rise from the off-season ashes.
You can read the Commissioner’s full statement here.
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(Photo Credit: Getty Images)