Earlier this week, a bombshell report detailed a system the Astros used to steal signs during their 2017 World Series championship season. The team had a center-field camera fixed on the catcher, someone decoded the signs on a monitor in the hallway between the dugout and clubhouse, and banged a garbage can to relay incoming pitches to the hitter.
Paranoia about Houston's sign-stealing was hardly limited to 2017. The Yankees used multiple signs throughout this year's ALCS -- New York held Astros' hitters to a meager .179/.281/.318 batting line despite the series loss -- and, according to Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post, the Nationals developed countermeasures of their own for the 2019 World Series.
Here's Svrluga with the details:
There were some layers to the Nats' plan for Houston. First, each pitcher had to have his own set of signs, and catchers Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki had to be familiar with each one. So the staff printed out cards with the codes and had them laminated. The catchers could have them in their wristbands, a la an NFL quarterback with play calls strapped to his forearm, and the pitchers would have them in their caps. Each pitcher had five sets of signs, and they could change them from game to game — or even batter to batter, if necessary. Using the set labeled No. 2, but worried the Astros were catching on? The pitcher could signal to the catcher to move to set No. 3.
The Nationals also used increasingly elaborate signs throughout the postseason "mainly because we thought we had heard some whistling," pitching coach Paul Menhart told Svrulga. The Yankees and Astros engaged in a shouting match during the ALCS because New York thought Houston was relaying signs with whistles.
"We were 100 percent on board with it," Nationals closer Sean Doolittle told Svrluga about the club using multiple sets of signs in the World Series.
The Astros went 60-21 at home during the regular season and their hitters were quite more productive at home (.284/.362/.516) than on the road (.265/.343/.476). That isn't evidence of sign-stealing, of course. Minute Maid Park is hitter friendly and most players perform better at home.
Despite Houston's home dominance, the Nationals won all four World Series games in Minute Maid Park this year, becoming the first team in North American sports history to win four road games in a best-of-seven championship round. The Astros scored only 11 total runs in the four home games.
Here is everything you need to know about the Astros' sign-stealing saga. At the moment MLB's investigation covers only the 2017 season, but there have been whispers about Houston stealing signs in other seasons as well. The Nationals were concerned enough in this year's World Series to develop multiple sets of signs for each pitcher.