Ex-Astros say team electronically stole signs during 2017 season
The Houston Astros have been accused of employing sign-stealing tactics for several seasons now, a some former members of the organization have confirmed that the team engaged in such practices during the year in which they won the World Series.
Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic spoke with four people who were with the Astros in 2017, including starting pitcher Mike Fiers. The sources claim the Astros used a video camera positioned in the outfield at Minute Maid Park and a video screen in the home dugout to decode signs that were being used by the opposing team’s catcher.
While the Astros have denied the numerous sign-stealing allegations against them, the former members of their World Series team described the practice they used that season in detail. According to the report, a feed from the camera in the outfield was linked to a television that was positioned on a wall in the tunnel that runs between the home dugout and the clubhouse at Minute Maid Park. Team employees and players would watch the monitor from massage tables across a wide hallway to see if they could decode their opponent’s signals, and the expected pitch would be relayed using a loud noise if they became confident they had stolen the signs. To do this, a player or staffer would bang on a trash can before a breaking ball or off-speed pitch was supposed to come.
Two of The Athletic’s sources said the Astros stopped using the tactics prior to the postseason in 2017, while another claimed he could vividly recall hearing the sound of a banging trash can before a Houston home run during the playoffs. The same source doubted whether players were able to hear the noise due to the loud environment inside the ballpark.
Fiers said his relationship with the Astros has become strained since he informed his subsequent teams, the Detroit Tigers and Oakland A’s, of what Houston had been doing.
“I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing,” Fiers said. “Young guys getting hit around in the first couple of innings starting a game, and then they get sent down. It’s (B.S.) on that end. It’s ruining jobs for younger guys. The guys who know are more prepared. But most people don’t. That’s why I told my team.”
One of The Athletic’s sources said he remembers former Chicago White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar pointing to his ear during a September appearance at Minute Maid Park in 2017. Farquhar told The Athletic he heard a “banging from the dugout, almost like a bat hitting the bat rack” every time he was about to throw a changeup. If you watch the video below, you can hear an obvious banging noise right before Farquhar called timeout during a game against the Astros.
Farquhar said he never heard the noise again after he and his catcher switched up their signals.
In large part because of the rampant suspicions about the Astros, Major League Baseball has reminded teams in recent years that using cameras or other electronic devices in an attempt to steal signs is prohibited by league rules. Rules prohibiting the using of electronic equipment for such tactics were already in place in 2017.
The New York Yankees believed the Astros were stealing signs during the ALCS this year and relaying them to hitters using a whistling sound from the dugout. There were also reports last year that the Boston Red Sox had caught Houston using similar practices during the 2018 ALCS, but MLB has not disciplined the organization. Astros manager AJ Hinch made light of the latest sign-stealing allegations.