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In the days since it was first reported that the 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros used a camera and trash can to relay catcher signs to batters, speculation has run rampant on the internet about how else the Astros could have circumvented the rules.
It appears MLB investigators are just as curious about potential cheating beyond the infamous trash can system, and are asking players about a number of other communication methods.
MLB asking Astros some interesting questions
Astros players have been asked about a number of potential methods to decipher and relay signs to batters — including buzzing bandages, hidden earpieces, algorithms to decode signs and more — during MLB’s investigation, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
It’s worth noting that this is not a report the Astros used such methods. The league reportedly has not concluded on that either way. Instead, it’s an indication of the breadth of possible cheating methods that MLB is trying to wrangle with as it handles its biggest scandal since the steroid era.
As things currently stand, the only method the Astros allegedly used that has been definitively reported is the trash can set-up, for which a truckload of corroborating video and audio evidence has emerged, as well as the likely trash can itself.
However, the Astros have only been reported to have used the trash can at home games in 2017 during the regular season. Did they really limit the reported cheating to just those games? That seems unlikely, and something MLB will have to determine for itself.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has said the investigation will look into the 2018 and 2019 seasons as well, and the 2017 playoffs are also reportedly going to be examined. You could imagine road games are an additional curiosity, considering the 2017 team saw little drop-off in their home-road splits.
That leaves 449 games of potential sign-stealing left to figure out, in addition to the 81 games already covered by the trash can. A number of theories have formed about how else the Astros might have cheated, most notably a potential whistling system for which MLB investigators have found evidence.
Baseball has always been a sport in which the possibilities to cheat are endless, and that’s only been exacerbated by modern technologies. This new Astros system, reportedly featuring a high-tech camera and low-tech trash can, is our biggest representation of that trend.
Even before this Astros scandal, there were the Apple watches of the Boston Red Sox and the hacking efforts of the St. Louis Cardinals. Such modern cheating hasn’t been confined to the Astros, but there has never been a more definitive example.
An email from an Astros executive requesting advance scouts pursue ways to illegally use cameras to pick up signs from dugouts has also been dredged up, leading to questions about just how high up these efforts could have originated.
Astros coaches, executives facing harsh penalties
MLB officials have told players who might have broken the rules that they can expect leniency if they tell the truth to investigators, according to Passan. It’s reportedly a different story for the Astros’ front office and coaching staff, who could all face significant punishments if they are found to have cheated.
The league has reportedly requested to search the phones of certain members of the Astros’ front office, and a number of employees have already been interviewed. That includes Astros manager A.J. Hinch, Red Sox manager Alex Cora (the Astros’ bench coach in 2017) and New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran (a player on the 2017 Astros), who have all been implicated in the creation of the sign-stealing system.
Still left to interview are reportedly a number of current Astros players. Multiple players no longer in baseball have reportedly refused to cooperate.
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