A member of the Astros' front office e-mailed team scouts about a month before the 2017 MLB postseason asking them to try to steal opponents' signs — and to use cameras, if necessary, The Athletic reported Saturday.
The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported they had obtained the executive's e-mail under condition of anonymity. From the article (subscription required):
"One thing in specific we are looking for is picking up signs coming out of the dugout," the email's sender wrote in a message from August of 2017. "What we are looking for is how much we can see, how we would log things, if we need cameras/binoculars, etc. So go to game, see what you can (or can’t) do and report back your findings."
The report also said that some scouts expressed to management their reservations about using cameras, fearful of damaging their reputations if they were to be caught.
The Athletic reported that the Astros declined to comment. It also reported that MLB was tight-lipped:
Major League Baseball declined to comment on the legality of scouts using cameras, which would require a public interpretation of a broadly written rule from 2017 that is applicable to an ongoing investigation. The rule prohibited electronic equipment from being used “for the purpose of stealing signs or conveying information designed to give a Club an advantage.”
The report will give people more reason to suspect the Astros have been cheating for years. Former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic in a story published Tuesday that in 2017, the Astros trained a center-field camera on the opponent's catcher and fed the video to a television monitor mounted on a wall in the runway behind the home dugout at Minute Maid Park. Signs could then be relayed to hitters before the pitch.
Fiers' comments led to Twitter users searching for instances of possible cheating by the Astros over the past three seasons. Sounds of "bangs" on a garbage barrel became widespread on the internet.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in September 2017 that using "elctronic equipment" to pick up signs was a violation of baseball rules. At the time, he was investigating accusations by the Yankees and Red Sox against each other of video sign-stealing and surveillance.
The Astros defeated the Red Sox and Yankees in the American League playoffs and the Dodgers in the World Series that October.