Astros fans look back fondly to 2017 when their team beat the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the World Series. But now that win is soured for some, as Major League Baseball investigates a possible cheating scandal that allegedly involves the illegal use of cameras in the outfield during that year’s games.
At the heart of the investigation is the allegation of “pitch stealing,” which is legal in the MLB, but only if it’s done using the human eye – not with the aid of cameras. Astros players used outfield cameras to identify pitch signals between opposing teams’ pitchers and catchers, and communicated them back to batters.
“He was the one that told the Athletics, ‘Yes, we illegally stole signs. We had cameras in center field that relayed to us what pitch was coming,’” Nightengale says.
Players in the dugout could see the pitch signals from the camera feed. Then, those players would bang a determined beat on trash cans or whistle to tell the batter what to expect.
Since 2017, the MLB has increased its security to prevent the use of technology for pitch-stealing.
“They have a security guy on their bench and one in their video room as well, monitoring this, to make sure no one does anything illegal,” Nightengale says.
Other teams have illegally used technology to try to gain an advantage. The Boston Red Sox used Apple Watches, and the Yankees used computer screens, before the league banned all such technology in 2017.
“After ‘17, they said, This can’t happen,” Nightengale says. “The Houston Astros weren’t the only ones doing it but they are the ones being investigated.”
The Astros haven’t formally responded to the accusations, but they agreed to cooperate with the investigation. If the MLB confirms the Astros cheated, it will penalize the team.
“The Astros will be at [a] loss to draft picks, loss of international spending money,” Nightengale says. “They could suspend people, and if they believe it came from upstairs – the manager or the coaching staff – they could do some penalties there.”
Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, the MLB will not revoke Houston’s World Series title.
Written by Libby Cohen.