Misinformation and the Rise and Sudden Demise of the 2017 Houston Astros


In 2017, the Houston Astros gave their whole organization and fan base a false reality. (Illustration by Alex Garcia | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Mallory Arnold, Sports Writer


Misinformation in sports comes in a lot of forms, and cheating is just one of the ways that teams outsmart each other. If you put the wrong number of shots down in your golf game, you’re feeding the officials misinformation. Trying to steal signs in baseball through electronic means is showing your fans misinformation. So how did the cheating and misinformation from the Astros affect the baseball world?

In the game of baseball, sign stealing is not necessarily illegal. If anything, players are encouraged to try to figure out what the other pitcher is throwing so that they are ready. It is just another part of the game. However, this practice is only encouraged when you are doing it fairly, such as reading the pitcher to see how they wind up when they’re throwing a fastball versus a curveball, or checking out the coach to see if when he touches his nose last on the call the pitch is a change-up. 

Basically, there are plenty of ways teams try to steal signs, but placing a video camera in center field to zoom in on the catcher is not one of those encouraged ways. This is exactly what the Houston Astros did in 2017, the same year the franchise won its first-ever world series. 

So how did the Astros do it? Well, the first report of it came in November 2019 when two reporters for The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich posted an article saying the Astros had stolen signs illegally two seasons earlier. This article featured now Oakland A’s pitcher Mike Fiers, who played for the Astros during that time. Fiers stated that there was a camera in centerfield sending live video footage to a tunnel in Minute Maid Park where they would relay information to the dugout. Then a trash can was hit to signal different pitches. 

Shortly after the article came out, Jimmy O’ Brien aka “Jomboy,” who is a sports personality, posted videos on Twitter and Youtube debunking one specific at-bat by Evan Gattis during a Chicago White Sox game. The video shows a bang before the first pitch which was a curveball, next a fastball and no bang this time. The third pitch was a changeup, where you can hear two bangs, and before that, a fastball was thrown and there was no bang. Finally, the last pitch comes with two bangs before, followed by a single by Gattis. 

The opposing pitcher at the time, Danny Farquhar told The AthleticThere was a banging from the dugout, almost like a bat hitting the bat rack every time a changeup signal got put down,” Farquhar said. “After the third one, I stepped off. I was throwing some really good changeups, and they were getting fouled off. After the third bang, I stepped off.”

Just days after The Athletic released their story, MLB began an internal investigation against the Astros. All players were granted immunity by MLB in exchange for their cooperation. In January of this year, the MLB released its investigation report, confirming that the Astros did, in fact, cheat during the season and postseason games. The Astros received the MLB maximum fine of $5 million dollars and had to give up both 2020 and 2021 first-round draft picks. 

With the investigation came multiple firings and people stepping down from managerial positions. The report said Alexa Cora, the coach at the time, and former outfielder Carlos Beltran, among some other players, were the leaders of this cheating scandal. Cora was the current coach of the Boston Red Sox in 2020 and stepped down after the incidents (Red Sox coincidentally won the world series in 2018 under Cora). Beltran had been named the New York Mets manager and also stepped down after the filing. Astro’s field manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were both suspended for the entire 2020 season, but moments after MLB released this investigation, Astros owner Jim Crane fired both Hinch and Luhnow from the organization. 

Crane told the Houston Chronicle, “Neither one of them started this but neither one of them did anything about it.” Crane said he was going beyond MLB’s sanctions because he had “higher standards for the city and the franchise”.

The MLB also investigated the 2018 and 2019 seasons, where the team made it far in both years, but there was no evidence found that the team was still cheating. So, what’s next for the MLB?

Currently, the MLB is trying to find new ideas for relaying signs, like using an earpiece from pitcher to catcher, or having a set of lights in front of the pitcher’s mound that only the pitcher can see and the catcher would have a way of lighting them on their armbands. 

Overall, what the Astros did give their whole organization and fan base a false reality. Their winnings from 2017 will never be seen as an earned title, and it will be hard for them to get their reputation back after misinforming all baseball fans of how they were winning.


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