Astros stole signs electronically in 2017

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A bombshell report from Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic: the World Series champion 2017 Houston Astros stole signs via electronic means that season. They did it by use of a camera in center field at Minute Maid Park.

Multiple people who worked for the team that season, including current A’s pitcher Mike Fiers, confirmed the existence of the sign-stealing to The Athletic.

Major League Baseball, after acknowledging that many teams complained, in general, about other teams stealing signs in recent years, said it would look into the new information uncovered by The Athletic. MLB is already examining the Astros front office in response to the Brandon Taubman affair just prior to the World Series. UPDATE: The Astros issued the following comment late this afternoon:

Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time.

The story reports the genesis of the sign-stealing scheme thusly:

At least two uniformed Astros got together to start the process. One was a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources; another was a coach who wanted to help.They were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good.

They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.

There have been widespread rumors that the Astros were stealing signs in 2017 and that, possibly, they still were. It has never risen above the rumor stage before now.

During the 2018 postseason there was a story involving the Indians and Red Sox thinking that the Astros were stealing signs and/or spying on their dugouts via the stationing of a team employee nearby. The Astros were more recently accused of a far lower-tech means of sign stealing during the 2019 postseason. Specifically, the Yankees complained that the Astros stole and relayed signs via players in the dugout whistling to Astros batters. Major League Baseball found nothing to that and, even if they did, the scheme did not involve technology to steal signs, which is specifically prohibited by Major League Baseball.

My sense is that this is the tip of the iceberg. As the quote from the story about the player proposing the system from his previous team makes clear, it’s likely not an Astros-only phenomenon. It’s likewise not just a 2017 phenomenon (the Athletic only has information from 2017). There are likely lots of teams doing this and many still doing it. Not that that is any excuse for what the Astros have done here. They should be investigated and punished.

But this is likely not just an Astros story. Major League Baseball has a pretty big cheating scandal on its hands. Now let’s see if Major League Baseball treats it as such rather than limit its inquiry to just the Houston Astros.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.