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#pounditFriday, October 22, 2021

Fired Astros scouts providing information to MLB about cheating?

Minute Maid Park Houston

MLB is investigating the Houston Astros over sign stealing that allegedly occurred in 2017. Four former members of the team reportedly told The Athletic for an article published last week about the cheating schemes by the team. One of the team’s former pitchers, Mike Fiers, even went on record about what he said the team was doing.

Since then, more evidence of the alleged cheating has been published, including an email that reportedly directed scouts to potentially use cameras to steal signs.

So who is supplying some of this information to MLB? Peter Gammons gave a clue. He tweeted Monday that if Houston’s front office hadn’t been “so cavalier” about firing scouts and treating them with disdain, those same people would not be coming forward to provide information to make the team look bad now.

The current Astros regime has touted the way they’ve eschewed traditional scouting in favor of a technological and analytic approach. They have fired most of their scouting staff, feeling they have no use for them because that they can analyze players better using their data and technology.

According to a book excerpt published by The Ringer, the Astros had 55 scouts in 2009 — more than the league average of 41 at the time. In 2019, they had fewer than 20 scouts, which was less than half the next smallest scouting staff in MLB.

Another excerpt from the book “The MVP Machine: How Baseball’s New Nonconformists Are Using Data to Build Better Players.”

More recently and radically, though, the Astros have virtually eliminated any form of in-person scouting of professional players, even in the minors. One scout the Astros recently let go mentions a directory of pro scouts that’s circulated around the industry. On the Astros’ page for 2018, he says, “It just says Astros, and it has a picture of [Special Assistant] Kevin [Goldstein] at the top. One photo.”

If there’s anything this story teaches us, it’s that how you treat people still matters very much. And when you cheat, your methods can come back to burn you if people who participated in the schemes ever leave for a competitor or lose their jobs.

This lesson about treating people well seems to be one the Astros did not give much care or attention to.

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