The Houston Astros at this writing are one win away from making it to the World Series for the third time in the last five seasons. As a backdrop to that near-dynastic run, however, is the sign-stealing scandal.
To recap, the Astros were disciplined by MLB for a sign-stealing scheme during the 2017 and 2018 seasons that involved banned use of replay monitors and the banging of trash cans to alert the hitter that something other than a fastball was on the way. The scandal roiled baseball just prior to COVID's seizure of the news cycle, and it all remains a sticky talking point whenever the Astros are a subject of interest.
Speaking of all that, A's right-hander Chris Bassitt recently made some illuminating remarks on Jomboy Media's The Chris Rose Rotation about the Astros and their past sign-stealing ways. Here's the relevant transcript excerpt:
Chris Rose: When you're a pitcher in Houston, Does that ever enter your mind that something transpired there several years ago?
Chris Bassitt: No. It did when they were cheating because we knew they were cheating. Like, we knew what was going on. Every team in the big leagues knew what was going on. But now? No, they're just, they're just really, really good.
This is not to open up a massive can of worms. This kind of thing. But like, Houston was not the only team doing stuff. Like there was a lot of people doing stuff. It was just un- ... I mean, fortunately, but unfortunately only one team essentially got caught doing it or was the guinea pig of it to like clean the whole entire league up.
But there was a lot going on. It was like an arms race, almost like it was like hey, this team's doing this. This team's doing that, this team's cheating here. This team's doing this. Is it happening? Still? No I think that aspect is completely gone of the game I think that's clean.
In addition to noting that every team had at least some idea of what was going on in Houston, Bassitt suggests the Astros had plenty of company when it comes to organized sign-stealing. He doesn't toss out any specifics, but we know a good bit of those from prior actions by the league and reporting from elsewhere. To wit:
- The Red Sox were disciplined by MLB, albeit not as severely as Houston was, for improperly using an Apple Watch to relay the signals of opposing teams during the 2017 season.
- Robert Murray, then of The Athletic, reported that the Brewers suspected the Dodgers of using a camera to steal their signs during the 2018 NLCS.
- Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic reported that the Red Sox illegally stole signs during the 2018 season and that, according to multiple sources, the Yankees had been using the replay room to decode signs since 2015 and the Red Sox since 2016.
- Scott Miller, then of Bleacher Report, reported in 2019 that certain league sources believed the Diamondbacks, Indians, Rangers, Cubs, Blue Jays, and Nationals used electronic sign-stealing measures to varying extents.
- Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat tweeted that the Brewers and Rangers (in addition to the Astros) were frequently named by players as practitioners of electronic sign-stealing.
- Former MLBer Logan Morrison named the Yankees, Dodgers, Astros, and Red Sox as team using video to decode signs.
- SI's Tom Verducci reported that multiple members of the Astros organization told MLB investigators that eight other teams had indulged in similar behavior.
You get the idea. While MLB and fans of teams other than the Astros would probably like to believe that Houston was the lone (or lone-ish) bad actor, that's a bit too tidy for reality. Bassitt's disclosures lend more evidence to the idea that it was more of a league-wide issue than a Houston issue.