By Cole Parkinson
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written a column and I was positive that my next one would dive deeper into how the Toronto Raptors have staved off injuries to remain in the top half of the Eastern Conference…and then the Houston Astros were busted for cheating.
I don’t think a sports story has captivated me as much since the whole Bryan Colangelo burner Twitter account broke in 2018.
But man, if you’re a baseball fan, how can you not absolutely despise the Houston Astros and every single person involved?
If you aren’t familiar, and with more news seemingly breaking every day or so, I would understand how some details may have slipped through the cracks, especially with the NHL, NBA and NFL seasons still ongoing.
Basically, for the 2017 and onwards, and who knows if it started before that, the Astros had set up a live feed camera in centre field in Minute Made Park which was fed to a monitor to relay signs to whichever batter was up.
Monitors were set up in the tunnel leading up to the dugout and guys would go down and decode the signs the catcher would give to the pitcher.
Once that was done, players would bang on a garbage can or whistle letting the hitter know if an off-speed pitch or fastball was coming.
And would you know it, the Astros won the World Series in 2017.
There is plenty of evidence of this on YouTube already and it’s pretty obvious when you watch because a garbage can banging and whistling is picked up clear as day.
And it may go even deeper than that, and boy, it gets a little crazy.
There are unsubstantiated reports that star Astros players such as Jose Altuve, who won the MVP in 2017, and Alex Bregman had buzzers taped to their shoulders which further signalled what pitch was coming during their at-bats.
Now this is just a rumour and the MLB investigation has made no mention of this in their report, so take it with a grain of salt but there are some weird details that seem to point to this at least having some traction.
Interesting to note that even Cincinnati Reds’ starter Trevor Bauer also tweeted he had heard rumblings of the taped buzzers.
The biggest video being shared right now is from the 2019 ALCS where Altuve is asking his teammates not to rip off his jersey when he hit the walk-off home run against Aroldis Chapman of the New York Yankees.
Now, that doesn’t mean much but I’ve seen plenty of walk-offs in my day and almost all of them end with the winning batter’s jersey ripped off.
So why would Altuve not want that?
In an interview after the game, Ken Rosenthal asked him why he said not to rip off his jersey, which Altuve responded because he was shy and last time “he got in trouble with his wife.”
Now that has to be the most random answer I’ve ever heard, and sure, maybe it’s true but is it awfully strange.
The fallout from the MLB investigation led to Houston’s general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch getting one-year bans, and then team owner being fired from the Astros.
Hinch showed his dismay of the system as he damaged the monitors on multiple occasions but yet, never actually stopped it.
Boston’s manager Alex Cora, who was the bench coach of the Astros in 2016 and 2017, also lost his managerial job due to the cheating scandal, which his role is said to have been a major one.
Cora is listed in the final report multiple times and is named as one of the primary developers behind the garbage banging system, so yeah, a lengthy suspension is coming his way once the MLB investigation of the 2018 Red Sox season is complete.
Carlos Beltran was hired as the New York Mets manager on Nov. 1 and has since left his job before even managing one game due to his involvement in the scheme, Beltran was a player during the Astros’ World Series win in 2017.
The Astros also have to forfeit their first and second round picks in the 2020 and 2021 draft and were fined the maximum $5 million.
So, three teams are now without managers heading into the 2020 season all because of this mess the Astros put themselves in.
Now, I am not naive enough to believe other teams have not done some form of cheating or another with all of this technology available, and I hope more details come out on this if there are.
The amount of attention baseball is getting from this can be two-fold.
For one, it’s good that people are talking about the game and if you subscribe to the age-old “all news is good news” then there’s no negative side to this.
The bad news though is, it’s not exactly ideal the most buzz baseball has gotten in recent years is due to a World Series winning-team cheating their way to the top.
This isn’t baseball’s first rodeo in this regard either, I mean just look back at the steroid era.
And stealing signs is part of the game, and I applauded players who do it in-game, on the field, not through a camera placed within their home stadium. Catchers can protect signs when players are on first, second or third but how can they when a camera is being used?
I guess from now on, every sign given in an MLB game will have to be camera protected, though I suspect no team would be dumb enough to try this again, but who knows.
The fact this cheating is on another level and the fact no players have seen any punishment is a little confusing to me considering they were the ones directly benefiting from it with a World Series ring.
And sure the report states players weren’t punished largely because there was no way to determine the degree each player used the system but you would have to expect a large majority benefited and the report even states ‘most’ players were involved.
I mean just look at road and home splits and the information is all there.
Even a simple dollar fine would have been something, albeit not enough, but it would have been better than nothing.
You have to think plenty of Houston batters stepping into the batters box in 2020 are going to be nervous though because I would be shocked if they weren’t the most hit by pitch team in the MLB.
I know plenty are crying for their 2017 World Series to be stripped and that obviously isn’t going to happen now unless further cheating is discovered.
If the buzzer rumour is proved to be true, I expect there to be dire consequences for both players found guilty, the team in general and their 2017 World Series should come into question even more than it is currently.
As it sits, I would be fine if the 2017 World Series was left vacant but if that doesn’t happen, I don’t think it is a huge deal because from here on out, the 2017 World Series will always have an asterisk beside it.
One positive for myself out of this story though, I honestly can’t wait to watch the Astros hit the road next year and see fans banging garbage cans during every Houston at-bat.