An explosive report from The Athletic last week on the 2017 Houston Astros’ alleged electronic sign-stealing system was the starter’s pistol for internet sleuths across social media to find evidence of the illegal scheme.
So far, the results have been considerable. Videos have emerged of at-bats in which bangs from a reportedly nearby trashcan can be heard, and one study from Baseball Prospectus found a clear footprint of the noises in audio data from home games of the World Series champions.
Now, it appears the sleuths might have found the exact tool with which the Astros allegedly made the noises. The infamous garbage can.
As a refresher, here’s how The Athletic described the alleged scheme in its initial report:
The Astros’ set-up in 2017 was not overly complicated. 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.
When the onlookers believed they had decoded the signs, the expected pitch would be communicated via a loud noise — specifically, banging on a trash can, which sat in the tunnel. Normally, the bangs would mean a breaking ball or off-speed pitch was coming.
So, basically, we’re looking for a television monitor on a table and a garbage can in a wide hallway just steps from the dugout.
Is this the Astros’ reported trash can?
On Sunday, Twitter user Jomboy, who has covered the case closely on Twitter, posted video from the Astros’ 2017 World Series documentary showing a room closely matching The Athletic’s description.
Here is the set-up in question from the World Series Documentary. Cable, chair, laptop, trash can. pic.twitter.com/84uGGsu15N— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) November 17, 2019
In addition to the trashcan, chair and table, a large amount of what look like sunflower shells can be seen covering the ground below the table. As if someone has spent multiple hours hanging out there.
However, as many noted, what was identified as a laptop seems to be more of a flattened box. So, is there really evidence a computer monitor was at that table like The Athletic reported?
Well, funny story about that.
These visuals obviously come with some significant caveats.
Most important of all is that these videos appear to be from the World Series, and one source from The Athletic’s report indicated the trashcan system ended before the postseason because the background noise would have been too loud to hear the bangs.
If the Astros were still using the alleged illegal camera, a different system to relay signals to batters might have been in use.
Of course, it is very hard to believe the Astros would have stopped doing this kind of thing just as the games began mattering even more, and one scout quoted by The Athletic literally said, “We were asked to electronically cheat in the playoffs.” The benefit of the doubt is running pretty dry.
It’s also impossible to know for sure what the monitor seen in the above tweet was being used for, though Eireann Dolan, the wife of Washington Nationals closer Sean Doolittle, noted that it was in the wrong place to be a standard replay monitor.
Lot of smoke around the Astros’ alleged sign-stealing
The way all of this audio and video evidence is adding up, the Astros are going to have a lot of explaining to do as MLB looks into the situation.
Mike Fiers, a pitcher on the 2017 team, has gone on record to state the team used the alleged system. There was also a report that one Astros executive might have left a paper trail of an illegal sign-stealing request, which would almost certainly come up in MLB’s investigation.
If what is publicly available is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what MLB digs up, you have to figure considerable repercussions are coming for whomever was involved in the alleged scheme.
Multiple current major league managers — Astros manager A.J. Hinch, Red Sox manager Alex Cora and New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran — have all been implicated in the scheme. Cora and Beltran were reported to have played a key role in devising the system when they were members of the 2017 Astros, Cora as bench coach and Beltran as designated hitter.
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