Video: Astros relay signs to hitters by banging on a trash can in 2017

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Earlier today, The Athletic’s Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal reported that the Astros stole signs electronically during the 2017 World Series, relaying the opposing catcher’s signs from a center field camera to a TV in the tunnel between the dugout and clubhouse. Someone would then drum on a trash can (or not) to alert the hitter as to what pitch is being thrown. The Astros are also suspected of stealing signs in the last two years as well, but The Athletic couldn’t verify those claims.

As expected, Internet sleuths went on the hunt for video evidence. Lucas Apostoleris, who has written for FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, found an example cited in Drellich and Rosenthal’s report: a September 21, 2017 game in Houston between the White Sox and Astros. In the bottom of the eighth inning with the bases empty and no outs, Evan Gattis stepped to the plate against Danny Farquhar. Farquhar said of that outing, “There was a banging from the dugout, almost like a bat hitting the bat rack every time a changeup signal got put down. After the third one, I stepped off. I was throwing some really good changeups and they were getting fouled off. After the third bang, I stepped off.”

The Farquhar/Gattis matchup in question begins at the two-hour, 56-minute mark in this video:

Farquhar goes curve, fastball for his first two pitches. One doesn’t hear any banging on trash cans. On the third pitch, catcher Kevan Smith put down the sign for a change-up. One hears two loud thumps and Gattis takes a change-up low and away for ball two. The next pitch was a fastball — no drumming — which Gattis fouled off. Smith and Farquhar went back to the change-up for pitch five. Bang bang. Gattis fouls off a change-up to the left side. Pitch six: fastball, no drumming. Gattis fouls it off again. On the seventh and final pitch, Smith and Farquhar went to the change-up once more. Smith put the signs down, bang-bang, this time Farquhar steps off as mentioned above. After a brief discussion on the mound — they changed their signs — they stayed with the change-up. No bang-bang. Gattis swings over the top and strikes out.

Free agent pitcher Carson Smith, who spent 2016-18 with the Red Sox, tweeted about the Astros:

Following The Athletic’s report, Indians starter Mike Clevenger tweeted a meme to Astros third baseman Alex Bregman:

Considering how embedded with gambling the sport of baseball has become, it has no choice but to seriously investigate the Astros — and the league at large — lest the integrity of the sport get called into question. The Astros are surely not the only team doing it, but they’re the poster child for the scandal at the moment.

Congressional task force passes resolution opposing MLB’s minor league contraction plan

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We’ve talked at length about Major League Baseball’s plan to eliminate 42 minor league clubs. We also recently talked about Congress getting involved. Today that process started. It started with a non-binding, symbolic move.

That move: several members of Congress, calling themselves the “Save Minor League Baseball Task Force,” introduced a resolution saying that Major League Baseball should drop its plan to eliminate the minor league clubs and, rather, maintain the current minor league structure. The resolution reads as follows:

RESOLUTION

Supporting Minor League Baseball, and for other purposes.

Whereas 40 million plus fans have attended Minor League Baseball games each season for 15 consecutive years;

Whereas Minor League Baseball provides wholesome affordable entertainment in 160 communities throughout the country;

Whereas, in 2018, Minor League Baseball clubs donated over $45 million in cash and in-kind gifts to their local communities and completed over 15,000 volunteer hours;

Whereas the economic stimulus and development provided by Minor League Baseball clubs extends beyond the cities and towns where it is played, to wide and diverse geographic
areas comprising 80 percent of the population in the Nation;

Whereas Minor League Baseball is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion through its Copa de la Diversio´n, MiLB Pride, FIELD Program, and Women in Baseball Leadership initiatives;

Whereas Minor League Baseball is the first touchpoint of the national pastime for millions of youth and the only touchpoint for those located in communities far from Major League cities;

Whereas Congress has enacted numerous statutory exemptions and immunities to preserve and sustain a system for Minor League Baseball and its relationship with Major League Baseball;

Whereas abandonment of 42 Minor League Baseball clubs by Major League Baseball would devastate communities, bond purchasers, and other stakeholders that rely on the economic stimulus these clubs provide;

Whereas Minor League Baseball clubs enrich the lives of millions of Americans each year through special economic, social, cultural, and charitable contributions; and

Whereas preservation of Minor League Baseball in 160 communities is in the public interest, as it will continue to provide affordable, family friendly entertainment to those communities:

Now, therefore, be it Resolved,

That the House of Representatives—
(1) supports the preservation of Minor League Baseball in 160 American communities;
(2) recognizes the unique social, economic, and historic contributions that Minor League Baseball has made to American life and culture; and
(3) encourages continuation of the 117-year foundation of the Minor Leagues in 160 communities through continued affiliations with Major League Baseball.

Major League Baseball issued a statement in response:

MLB is confident we can modernize or minor league system, improve playing conditions for our players, and protect baseball in communities across America. However, doing so is best achieved with Minor League Baseball’s constructive participation, and a recognition that they need to be a part of the solution. So far their approach has neither been constructive nor solutions-oriented. The most constructive role Congress can play to achieve these goals is to encourage Minor League Baseball to return to the bargaining table so we can work together to address the real issues impacting minor league players and communities all across the country.

So that’s fun.

It’s worth noting, again, that this move by Congress does nothing substantively and, rather, exists primarily to allow Members of Congress to talk about baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and America in that way that politicians like to do. Almost any act they take is opposed by half the populace, so they will always jump at an opportunity to say things that most people agree with like “taking away our sports teams is bad. If Congress wants to do something substantive here it can hold hearings and take tangible steps toward eliminating baseball’s antitrust exemption, which is basically the only real hammer it has in influencing the league. I suspect it won’t go that far and will, instead, continue to just issue statements like this.

For its part, Major League Baseball’s statement should be read as “we want to kill these guys over here, the guys we want to kill are being REAL JERKS about it and won’t help us in killing them. Congress, please shut up about not wanting them to die and, instead, tell them that they should let us kill them, OK?”

The upshot: wake me up when something actually happens beyond this posturing.