It’s the topic that won’t die, and for good reason. Yet more details have emerged about the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme, which helped the club win its first championship in 2017 amid a run of dominance. There are two articles today providing further information on what happened. One, from Barry Svrluga and Dave Sheinin of The Washington Post, explains that the Astros’ cheating ways were well-known around the sport, even before 2017. The other, from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Evan Drellich, and Marc Carig, paints Carlos Beltrán and Alex Cora as the biggest driving forces behind the scheme. You should click through and read each report in its entirety.
The gist of the Post report is that the Astros are believed to have begun illegally stealing signs in 2016 and more or less the entire league was aware of it in recent years. Though opposing teams prepared for the Astros, many felt helpless to overcome their cheating. Of note, several members of the Dodgers — who lost in five games to the Nationals in the NLDS — reached out to former Dodger and then-Nationals infielder Brian Dozier to inform him that the Astros were actively and illegally stealing signs. Nats manager Dave Martinez also attempted to reach out to reliever Tony Sipp, an Astro in 2014-18 who also pitched for the Nationals through July of 2019. Martinez couldn’t reach him. Max Scherzer went the extra mile to track Sipp down. Sipp told Scherzer that the Nats should be concerned about the Astros stealing signs. The Nats developed a new series of signs and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Athletic’s report further cements Beltrán and Cora as the masterminds of the Astros’ sign-stealing ways. At the time, Beltrán was 40 years old and a veteran of 20 seasons. His voice carried considerable weight in a clubhouse that was otherwise younger and less accomplished. Those on the Astros who didn’t feel comfortable with cheating felt like they had to go along with it because it wasn’t their place to object. Catcher Brian McCann, at the time a 13-year veteran, did approach Beltrán at one point to ask him to stop the illegal operation, but was ignored.
A person with direct knowledge of the league’s investigation said about the Astros, “What happened was Cora and Beltrán decided that this video room stuff [director of advance information Tom] Koch-Weser was doing (with Codebreaker) was just not working, inefficient, too slow. They just had some lower-level guy put up this monitor and did it themselves.”
There had been some belief that, based on MLB’s investigation into the 2017 Astros, Cora and Beltrán were being thrown under the bus because the league couldn’t realistically punish all of the players involved in the “player-driven” scheme. Based on all of the information we’ve gathered to date, though, it seems safe to say that they both got off light for what they’ve done.
The Red Sox fired Cora last month. He is still currently under investigation by the league for an alleged cheating operation that helped the 2018 Red Sox win the World Series. Beltrán was hired by the Mets in early November but fired last month as well, just a few days after Cora’s ouster. Cora may still be suspended by the league but it appears Beltrán will go unpunished. At the very least, though, Beltrán’s legitimate case for the Hall of Fame has been tarnished and he may never get another chance to manage in the majors.