Posted on November 12, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
Could the Houston Astros World Series title in 2017 be tainted by cheating? That is what one member of that team is claiming. Current Oakland A’s pitcher, Mike Fiers, who spent the 2017 season with the Astros, told The Athletic that during that season the Astros were using a camera in center field to steal signs and relay them to the dugout during games. Major League Baseball rules don’t allow teams to utilize technology to gain an advantage. If true, the allegations by Fiers would be in clear violation of MLB rules. The Athletic also cites three unnamed sources who backup Fiers.
Despite not pitching in the 2017 postseason outside of one appearance in the ALDS, Fiers spent the entire 2017 season in Houston. He made 28 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros, earning a championship ring before being non-tendered after the season and signing with the Tigers. During his time with the Tigers and A’s the past two seasons, Fiers warned teammates about Houston’s rule-skirting tactics.
“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,” explains Fiers. “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. That’s why I told my team. We had a lot of young guys with Detroit trying to make a name and establish themselves. I wanted to help them out and say, ‘Hey, this stuff really does go on. Just be prepared.'”
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If what Fiers is saying is true, it backs up long-held rumors and speculation that the Astros were stealing signs. Prior to playing the Astros in this year’s World Series, the Nationals received warnings from around the league to be on the lookout for whistling or flashing lights, two techniques the Astros have allegedly used to relay stolen signs.
During this year’s ALCS, the Yankees complained that they heard whistling from Houston’s dugout, prompting concerns on New York’s end that the Astros were stealing signs. Several players have also claimed that Astros players will bang on a trashcan from the dugout to signal what type of pitch the batter at the plate should expect.
“We’ve never done anything that’s been deemed to be incorrect,” Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said following the allegations made by the Yankees during the ALCS. “Last year, we were trying to prevent other teams from doing things. It was dumb and we shouldn’t have done it because it made us look guilty. We haven’t done anything wrong.”
Prior to the 2019 season, MLB revised its rules that addressed using video and other technology to steal signs. This is not the first time the league has looked into allegations of the Astros and their sign-stealing techniques. However, MLB is yet to acknowledge publicly that the Astros have done anything wrong. The story published by The Athletic has prompted yet another investigation into the Astros.
“Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball,” the Astros said in a statement. “It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time.”
It’s too soon to know what, if anything, will come of the allegations by Fiers and the other unnamed sources. However, there appears to be plenty of smoke surrounding the Astros and allegations of using video illegally to steal signs. At this point, it wouldn’t be surprising to find a fire.
“That’s not playing the game the right way,” says Fiers. “They were advanced and willing to go above and beyond to win.”