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Sunday, May 31, 2020

MLB knew about video monitor cheating before 2019 season

Major League Baseball has dropped the hammer on the Houston Astros over their elaborate sign-stealing scheme that they implemented during their World Series season in 2017, but let us not be naive enough to think the league had no knowledge of it before conducting a thorough investigation.

MLB announced on Monday that Astros manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow have been suspended for the entire 2020 season after an investigation confirmed what was reported by The Athletic back in November. Houston stole signs with a system in 2017 that utilized a video monitor positioned near the dugout and a camera in center field fixated on the opposing team’s catcher. Alex Cora was determined to be one of the masterminds behind the operation, and Cora’s Boston Red Sox are now being investigated separately.

A separate report from The Athletic that was published last week cited former members of the Red Sox organization who claim the team illegally used the video replay room to assist with stealing signs during the 2018 season. While MLB has come down hard on those involved after The Athletic blew the lid off the story, there are plenty of indications league officials knew what was going on well before that.

Game broadcasts have been shown on TVs inside MLB clubhouses for years, but it wasn’t until the 2019 season that the league implemented a mandatory eight-second delay for those video feeds to prevent teams from using them to relay sign information. The delay was used for all TV screens in the clubhouse except the replay monitor, which MLB began monitoring during games with league personnel beginning in the 2018 postseason.

MLB introduced replay review in 2014, so why do you suppose they waiting until late in the 2018 season to take steps to prevent teams from using the replay monitor to assist with stealing signs? They obviously knew what was going on.

The findings that were released by the league on Monday referred to the Nov. 12 story in The Athletic numerous times, but MLB knew about at least some of this before the story was published. According to a previous report from Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle, MLB instructed people monitoring the video replay screen at Minute Maid Park to listen for banging sounds early in the 2019 season.

Obviously, it’s a terrible look for MLB for both its 2017 and 2018 World Series champions to be implicated in cheating scandals. Had it not been for the terrific investigative reporting by The Athletic, the league would have been content to sweep everything under the rug and continue to search for ways to counter sign stealing.

In hindsight, the way the Astros were stealing signs was so blatantly obvious it was almost insulting. Time will tell if the Red Sox were guilty of similar tactics, but we know enough now to conclude MLB knew a lot more than it would like fans to believe.

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