High Heat: Sign-stealing scandal should cost Astros big if proven true

A desultory Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees walks off the field after giving up a series-winning home run to the Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The Houston Astros should get a stiff penalty if the recent sign-stealing accusations prove to be true.

On Tuesday, The Athletic reported, based on quotes from a former Astros pitcher, that the reigning American League champions had, in 2017, positioned a camera in center field that focused on the opposing catcher in an effort to steal signs. Based on their findings, team employees would allegedly bang on a garbage can in a tunnel between the Astros dugout and their clubhouse.

Since the initial report, we’ve heard several players — both current and former — give their two cents on the allegations. Opposing players have backed the report, saying that it’s long been suspected that the Astros have been stealing signs.

Meanwhile, the Astros have not denied the allegations, with General Manager Jeff Luhnow saying that the organization will “look into it.”

“If you’re not following the rules, it’s a serious matter. I’m not going to get into exactly what I knew or anybody knew at this point,” Luhnow said at the GM Meetings in Arizona. “So I’m just going to have to wait and see. But I’m sure there will be an appropriate time to answer that question directly.”

The bombshell report comes after the 2019 American League Championship Series, which saw the Yankees complain to umpires that the Astros were using a whistling sound from the dugout on certain pitches, which New York believed was code for stealing signs. 

In 2017, MLB fined the Red Sox an undisclosed amount for using Apple Watches in their dugout to steal signs from the Yankees. And the Yankees were fined an undisclosed amount for improper usage of a dugout phone. 

After the fines were issued, Commissioner Rob Manfred said teams were notified that similar violations would “be subject to more serious sanctions, in the future, including the possible loss of draft picks.

While sign-stealing itself is not against the rules, using cameras to do so is illegal. And for that, the Astros should be penalized. 

Teams will always try to gain the upper hand against their opponents. And stealing signs is sometimes part of that. But using cameras to do so should not be tolerated. It’s bad for baseball, plain and simple.  

It’s time for Manfred to keep his word. If MLB’s investigation determines that the allegations against the Astros are true, then he needs to make an example out of the organization with a hefty fine and a loss of draft picks. 

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