The Houston Astros have solidified themselves as one of baseball's best teams and a franchise with a large championship window after winning the World Series in 2017 and reaching it once more in 2019. That perception may be marred after a report from Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic emerged alleging Houston stole signs using a camera throughout the 2017 season.
Former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers was the only source to go on record and confirm that the team used a camera in the outfield to steal signs. The camera was streaming to a television inside the dugout, out of view of any broadcast cameras. From the article:
A feed from a camera in center field, fixed on the opposing catcher’s signs, was hooked up to a television monitor that was placed on a wall steps from the team’s home dugout at Minute Maid Park, in the tunnel that runs between the dugout and the clubhouse. Team employees and players would watch the screen during the game and try to decode signs — sitting opposite the screen on massage tables in a wide hallway.
Once the signs were deciphered, those in the dugout would signal what the pitches were going to be by banging on trash cans. The overall tone of the article implies that this is a much bigger issue than the Astros, but so far, there have been no similar reports concerning other teams.
This is a big deal for a few reasons. Stealing signs falls within the "all's fair in love and war" sentiment of intense competition, but using cameras violates that spirit. As Fiers noted, the impact goes much farther beyond just a win or a loss for Houston; players are demoted and promoted based on their performances, and the Astros could be derailing careers by using such underhanded tactics.
It is important to note within the article that two sources from Drellich and Rosenthal said the practice extended into the 2017 playoffs, while one "adamantly denied" that claim.
This is a big story, and the ripple effects could be far and wide.