It was the year 2017. A team once known as underdogs who made thrilling comebacks reached the pinnacle of baseball, claiming the World Series title. The Houston Astros made history. But a scandal soon strangled the champagne and confetti, as investigative reports unveiled a shocking reality: the Astros cheated their way to the top!

This was believed to be a carefully coordinated scheme that contaminated the very essence of the game. The players used the language of signs between pitcher and catcher. A trash can lid was their unlikely weapon with which the Astros reportedly stole secrets of opposing teams. This is more than just a story of foul play and consequences, “It’s an issue that permeates through the whole league”.

The Case: A Look Into Houston Astros’ Sign-Stealing Scandal


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To know in great depth about the scandal, one must know that “When you cheat on the field, telling people when a fastball is coming, you’re really playing with the heart of the game,” former MLB commissioner, Fay Vincent who reigned from 1989 to 1992, said. His words were recorded in the documentary named ‘The Astros Edge’. This brings us to the doomed year.

2017 was a dark year in Houston’s franchise history. The year that unfurled the sign-stealing saga began with a “runner” rushing from the video room to the dugout. He went on whispering the secrets of opposing catchers. This shortly after turned into a digital relay race.

Upon further investigation, it was revealed that, (then) bench coach Alex Cora tapped into the replay room feeding stolen signs to the dugout. Technology was quick to replace flesh and blood messengers in the form of text messages and smartwatches.

To elaborate on how they orchestrated the entire system, the Astros deviously employed a center-field camera that piped a live feed to a hidden screen near their dugout. This was the concealed vantage point from where players and other parties allegedly deciphered opposing teams’ signs. With this, they built a coded system of loud bangs for off-speed pitches and eerie silence for fastballs. When this was uncovered, it left fans reeling.

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The Investigation: How the Entire Scandal Unfurled

In September 2016, an innocuous PowerPoint presentation was the root cause. Astros intern Derek Vigoa unveiled what was called ‘Codebreaker’, an Excel-based application designed to decrypt opponents’ pitching signs. This was nothing but an outright violation of MLB rules. Soon after the discovery, the ‘dark arts’ came into play. What happened next was (tainted) history.

The whistleblower, former Astro Mike Fiers, rose to right in November 2019. He confessed to the Athletic journalists Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich that unearthing guilty truths. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred mentioned that MLB was going to carry out a “really, really thorough” investigation. The investigation’s outcomes were a gut punch. It confirmed employing center-field cameras to steal signs relayed through a network of players and staff.

Reportedly, Manager A. J. Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow were aware, yet failed to stop it. Names, such as superstar Carlos Beltran, had actively participated. The Astros’ foul play was more than just a broken rule. One could not extinguish fans’ fury and their agitation was to an extent that they questioned all past champions and even future victories.

The Punishment: What Were the Sanctions on the Houston Astros? Did They Lose Their Championship?

Rob Manfred held Houston’s general manager “personally accountable for the conduct of his Club” as per the ‘Statement of the Commissioner’. The fallout was swift. The consequences that followed stripped the Houston Astros of their 2017 and 2018 first and second-round draft picks.

Not only that, they landed a slapping $5 million fine, however, kept their tainted trophy. As a repercussion of the wrong doing the Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were suspended for the following season. Also, owing to “stealing opponents’ pitching signs during their team’s World Series-winning 2017”, an expulsion followed.


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As a consequence, little leagues banished the ‘Astros’ name. Commissioner Manfred’s decisions propelled debate, in turn criticizing immunity deals and deeming punishments unfair. After the scandal shook the MLB world, the investigation came to a close gradually, but a recovery from the damage is still in progress even to this day.

Read More: “Cheaters” Houston Astros Suddenly Gain Momentum as College Baseball Team Stirs Up Controversial Trash Can Past Along With Thousands


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Well, even before the 2017 scandal came to light, other MLB teams pointed out possible sign stealing. When Manfred took notice of this, he sternly warned them against electronic sign-stealing in 2017. However, the world of MLB remained naïve to the extent of its pervasiveness. Little did anyone know that the Houston Astros’ foul play, which was operating in plain sight, was undetected.

As of today, one question remains – Will the game that suffered the blow of unfairness ever heal?