At least one Houston Astros witness interviewed by Major League Baseball admitted the team used a center-field video to decode and relay pitching signs in real time during the 2017 season, Andy Martino of SNY reported Saturday.
However, the same witness denied the Astros set up a camera specifically designed to aid the sign-stealing process, while adding that players and coaches were not aware of which camera the feed was coming from.
The overall picture painted by these sources is one that shows the Astros breaking rules, but not going so far as to install a camera specifically for sign stealing.
"We did ask for a game centerfield feed to decode signs, as many teams do," one witness told MLB, according to sources. "All we asked for was a live feed.”
It’s a notable development any way you slice it.
While the Astros witness believed the team’s actions were "in line with industry standards," MLB defines any use of electronics to facilitate stealing signs as an illegal act. It does not matter if the camera was league-approved, which the SNY report says the camera in question here was.
Sources say the camera in question was league-approved and already in place. One source suggested it could have been a scouting camera, which would have been its league-approved purpose. That is more likely than a camera from the TV feed, which would have required the broadcast crew to participate in the scheme.
If the league’s investigation determines the Astros were sending the feed to the dugout and relaying signs from that point, the team will face a potentially harsh punishment. As the SNY report states, the question appears to be “not if the Astros broke the rule, but how and to what degree they did it.”
The investigation began after former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic that in 2017, the Astros used technology to steal signs from other teams. Since then, it’s been alleged the Astros relayed signs to batters by banging on a dugout garbage can during the 2017 season. During the 2019 ALCS, the New York Yankees raised concerns about the Astros relaying signs through whistling.
Rob Manfred told the media on Wednesday that it’s the “most thorough investigation” the commissioner’s office has ever done. More that 60 interviews have been conducted and more than 76,000 e-mails and text messages have been reviewed, according to the league.
MLB is in no hurry to wrap up the investigation. A report from The Athletic this week suggested a ruling would not be made before 2020.
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