AFP/Los Angeles, United States
The Houston Astros said Tuesday the team was co-operating with a Major League Baseball investigation into allegations the team illegally stole signs during their 2017 World Series-winning campaign.
A report in The Athletic website earlier Tuesday quoted former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers as saying the team stole signs from opposing teams during their home playoff games in 2017.
The team decoded the signs with the assistance of a camera positioned in the outfield — a violation of Major League Baseball rules.
“Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organisation has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball,” the Astros said in a statement on Tuesday.
“It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time.”
Sign-stealing in baseball is the act of observing signals by opposing teams, most commonly between pitchers and catchers, in an attempt to gain a tactical advantage by identifying what kind of pitch is likely to be thrown.
Major League Baseball forbids teams from using electronic assistance — such as a camera — to help steal signs. Sign-stealing by players in the field is allowed but generally frowned upon.
Fiers told The Athletic that the Astros had used a video feed from the outfield relayed to a television monitor positioned near the home dugout to decipher signals.
The veteran told the website the practice had rankled him because it had led to pitchers being relegated to the minor leagues.
‘Not playing the game’
“I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing,” Fiers said.
“Young guys getting hit around in the first couple of innings starting a game, and then they get sent down. It’s ruining jobs for younger guys. The guys who know are more prepared. But most people don’t.”
The Athletic also quoted three sources from inside the Astros who confirmed that sign stealing was used by the team.
The report said an Astros employee would watch the opposing team’s catcher’s signals on a video monitor, and then bang a trash can loudly to let hitters know what pitches were being thrown.
“That’s not playing the game the right way,” Fiers told The Athletic. “They were advanced and willing to go above and beyond to win.”
During the 2017 playoffs, the Astros won the American League Championship Series 4-3 after winning all four home games against the New York Yankees.
The team then won two out of three of its home games in a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.
Yankees chief Brian Cashman, speaking to reporters at the general managers’ meetings in Arizona on Tuesday, declined to comment directly on the allegations.
However, Cashman said teams who cheat should face “consequences”.
“You decide to play by the rules, or you don’t,” Cashman said.
“And if you don’t, there’s consequences. You’re putting yourself at risk whether it’s future employment, current employment, or sanctions or what have you. It’s not a technology question as much as how you want to operate.”
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