The Astros Cheating Scandal

Cameron Mays ‘21

The Astros cheating scandal that first emerged in November 2019 has finally come to a close as the MLB released both its report, and the punishments that the Astros will receive. 


The Houston Astros won the 2017 World Series, but during that time, they used video monitors to steal the signs of opposing teams throughout the season. Mike Fiers, a former pitcher of the Astros, alleged on November 12 in an article published by The Athletic that Astros used methods to steal signs that are against MLB rules. 


Sign stealing in itself is not a new or illegal practice in the MLB, as stealing the opposing teams signals has always played an important role in strategy. However, using any sort of technology to aid in sign stealing is strictly forbidden.


During the 2017 season, the Astros used a camera in the outfield that streamed to a T.V in a tunnel outside of the dugout. Team employees would try to decode any signs by the catcher, and then would alert players. The methods in which players were signaled changed as the season progressed. 


Youtuber Jomboy Media was an instrumental part in confirming to the public that the Astros were guilty, as he combed through game footage and compiled a video that proved the Astros would bang a trash can with a bat whenever a changeup pitch was about to be thrown. Based on how quickly the catcher would show the sign and the trashcan was hit, it was clear the Astros had to have been using some sort of technology.


The MLB announced, along with their report, the punishments for this scandal. They were fined $5 million (an amount that does not seem like much, but it is the largest amount allowed under the MLB constitution), they will also forfeit their draft picks in the first and second round for the next two years. Additionally, their manager A.J Hinch, and general manager Jeff Luhow will be suspended for a season. 


The report concluded that while the sign stealing was primarily player organized and ran, Hinch was aware of the situation and did not do enough to stop it, and Luhow fostered a sense of “winning at all costs” that may have pressured players into these drastic measures. 


A short time after all of these punishments were announced, the Astros held a press conference where they fired A.J Hinch and GM Jeff Luhow, a response that many around the sport were not necessarily expecting. While both Hinch and Luhow were some of the best at their respective jobs in the entire league, they may never find work again, unless a team is desperate enough and feels that they will be able to withstand the negative press that will certainly come with hiring Hinch or Luhow.


This is certainly not the end, as there is one more missing piece. Current Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who won the 2018 World Series, was the bench coach of the Astros in 2017, and the MLB concluded that Cora was directly involved in the sign stealing, and implemented ways to improve the system. He is also believed to be involved in a lesser sign stealing scheme while managing the Red Sox.


Before the MLB was able to hand down their punishment to Cora, he and the Red Sox mutually agreed to part ways, suggesting that the Red Sox would have fired him once the punishment was announced. 


The implications of this scandal are not fully known. It is widely regarded to be a terrible thing for the MLB that two powerful and successful teams were able to get away with cheating to this magnitude. Also, because many feel that the punishment that the MLB gave to the Astros was lacking in severity, more teams will be inclined to cheat. After all, what is a few million dollars and some draft picks when you win a World Series? It is clear that the MLB will have to adjust its rules and crackdown on any future scandals of this level in order to protect the integrity of the game.