As technology has advanced and teams continued to take effort toward giving themselves the best chance to win, it has brought about paranoia and accusations of cheating. Much of the finger-pointing has gone toward the Houston Astros, whose organization as a whole has faced scrutiny.
The act of stealing signs generally is accepted as a practice that has long been part of the sport. However, a clear line is drawn if that is done so with the aid of electronic equipment.
During the 2017 regular season, the Boston Red Sox were fined an undisclosed amount after the New York Yankees submitted a complaint and evidence an Apple Watch was utilized to steal signs. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred warned of harsher penalties moving forward for teams who were caught.
Then in the National League Division Series that postseason, former Arizona Diamondbacks coach Ariel Prieto was fined for wearing an Apple Watch. The Diamondbacks denied it was part of a ploy to cheat or steal signs, and the Los Angeles Dodgers largely didn’t protest the matter.
They swept the Diamondbacks and later went on to reach the World Series for the first time since 1988. A matchup with the Astros ended in heartbreak, as the Dodgers came up short in a thrilling seven-game series.
As the Astros remain under a microscope because of recent missteps, more light has been shed on their alleged sign stealing that occurred during 2017 regular-season games at Minute Maid Park, per Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic:
The Astros’ set-up in 2017 was not overly complicated. A feed from a camera in center field, fixed on the opposing catcher’s signs, was hooked up to a television monitor that was placed on a wall steps from the team’s home dugout at Minute Maid Park, in the tunnel that runs between the dugout and the clubhouse. Team employees and players would watch the screen during the game and try to decode signs — sitting opposite the screen on massage tables in a wide hallway.
When the onlookers believed they had decoded the signs, the expected pitch would be communicated via a loud noise — specifically, banging on a trash can, which sat in the tunnel. Normally, the bangs would mean a breaking ball or off-speed pitch was coming.
Although it can be presumed the Astros continued utilizing their system through the World Series, there are conflicting claims:
Two sources said the Astros’ use of the system extended into the 2017 playoffs. Another source adamantly denied that, saying the system ended before the postseason.
One Astros source said he had a vivid memory of hearing the garbage can sound right before an Astros home run during the postseason. Yet, he also believed that during the World Series, it was probably too loud inside the park for the Astros’ system to be effective. There was, after all, a basic requirement for the system to function: The batter had to be able to hear it.
As it specifically pertains to the Dodgers and the 2017 World Series, Yu Darvish and Clayton Kershaw both endured rough outings at Minute Maid Park. Darvish was also on the mound for a disastrous Game 7, but that was at Dodger Stadium.
In the immediate aftermath of the Astros winning the World Series, the prevailing sentiment was Darvish tipped pitches — something the right-hander conceded had to be true considering his struggles.
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