Hear the whistles. Hit the garbage can. Is this a performance of Stomp? No, this is the Houston Astros organization when an off-speed pitch is coming. Supposedly. It seems fitting to me that one hundred years after the Black Sox scandal that shook baseball, we have a scandal of our own. The Houston Astros name does not lend itself so naturally to a nickname as the White Sox does to the Black Sox. With that said, I hope that this scandal goes down as the Scamstros. It has a nice ring to it.
What is the scandal? Well, the World Series champions in 2017 and runner-ups of the 2019 World Series have been accused of stealing signs of pitches. That would not be such a big deal if they stole them within the rules, but this scandal centers around the use of a camera that would feed the signs to an Astros member in the tunnel, who would hit a trash can if the signal was for an off-speed pitch. Other times, a specific whistle has been mentioned to signal the pitch. These techniques mean the Astros batter would know what type of pitch was coming, which is an incredible advantage.
How big of an advantage? Well, there are some stats that do not bode well for the Astros but clearly boded well for them when they won. The slugging percentage in the postseason for the Astros’ star, Jose Altuve, was an astounding .799 points higher at home than away. The batting average for the Astros as a team during the playoffs was over .100 points higher at home than away against offspeed pitches. All of these stats could show a clear advantage or could speak to other factors. But now with confirmation from former team members, such as pitcher Mike Fiers, the whole scandal becomes bigger and the proof more damning.
The confirmation of members who were in the organization and some interesting videos from creator Jomboy on YouTube have convinced a lot of the public that cheating did occur and offered an advantage to the Astros in their World-Series-winning run. There have been similar scandals before, with the Red Sox in the same year, but they did not win the World Series. The punishments may include lifetime bans or loss of draft picks, but I want their rings. Of course, I say this knowing that it will not happen, as no professional team has ever had their championship title vacated. Yet, I think if you cheated and won in seven games in the World Series, maybe you would have lost had you not cheated. Maybe could be a probably. Maybe it never even goes to seven.
I do not expect those ramifications. And that could be unfair to certain parties involved. That said, how this is disciplined will be important in discouraging future teams from cheating. Nothing would set a stronger example than revoking a title because cheating was involved. Either way, the Astros have marred their reputation.