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.

Report: Mets sign Brad Brach to one-year, $850,000 contract

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The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Mets and free agent reliever Brad Brach have agreed on a one-year deal worth $850,000. The contract includes a player option for the 2021 season with a base salary of $1.25 million and additional performance incentives.

Brach, 33, signed as a free agent with the Cubs this past February. After posting an ugly 6.13 ERA over 39 2/3 innings, the Cubs released him in early August. The Mets picked him up shortly thereafter. Brach’s performance improved, limiting opposing hitters to six runs on 15 hits and three walks with 15 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings through the end of the season.

While Brach will add some much-needed depth to the Mets’ bullpen, his walk rate has been going in the wrong direction for the last three seasons. It went from eight percent in 2016 to 9.5, 9.7, and 12.8 percent from 2017-19. Needless to say the Mets are hoping that trend starts heading in the other direction next season.