Who Was Behind the Astros 2017 Sign Stealing Scandal?

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Red Sox fans boo the Astros during a 2021 game between the two teams. (Photo by USA Today Sports)

Written By Peyton Youse , Sports Editor

Early in 2020, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred dealt the Houston Astros a much anticipated punishment as a result of their 2017 sign stealing scandal, one in which the Astros were fined $5 million dollars and were stripped of their first and second round picks in both 2020 and 2021. This story captivated MLB audiences everywhere, as fans of all other 29 teams bashed the Astros by calling them the “trashtros” and “asterisks” in the wake of what was uncovered. Furthermore, they demanded that the Astros be stripped of their World Series title as fans felt that the reason why the Astros won was because they cheated. But who was behind this all? Was it just one person, or was the whole Houston team involved? Today, let’s find that out. 

To start, let’s look at how exactly the Astros cheated. It all began during the 2017 regular season, when the Astros installed cameras in center field to find out what signs the pitcher was giving to the catcher. They’d then review the video during the game and would have a player serve as a runner who’d tell the dugout what they were seeing. The process was further enhanced when a TV was put in the dugout so players could look at the feed live instead of waiting for the runner to relay the information. But in 2018, the Astros were afraid that they’d get caught so they moved the replay room behind the dugout. They also instituted the trash can strategy, in which players in the dugout would bang the can once to signify that an offspeed pitch was coming or twice to signify that a fastball was coming. Midway through the 2018 season, the Astros decided to stop as they felt like cheating was becoming a distraction as the team wasn’t able to focus on simply playing baseball. No one found out about what was happening for the next two years, but when 2020 rolled around, Houston was finally caught when former Astros and then Oakland Athletics pitcher Mike Fiers revealed everything that happened.

Carlos Correa and Alex Cora sit in the dugout during the 2017 season. (Photo by LG Patterson)

The person who was most directly associated with the scandal was Alex Cora. In the report released by commissioner Manfred, Cora, who was a bench coach for the Astros during the 2017 season, was said to have been an instrumental part in not only devising the sign stealing scandal but also keeping it going throughout the season. But what makes Cora’s involvement so obvious is because of what he did after his Astros tenure. When Cora left the Astros following the 2017 season, he became the manager of the Boston Red Sox. And while he was with the Red Sox, Cora was found to have taken part in sign stealing again. So the only logical explanation as to how he cheated with the Red Sox is because he did it before with the Astros.

In addition to Cora, veteran Carlos Beltran was also a ringleader in the sign stealing scheme. In a 2022 interview with Yankees play-by-play broadcaster Michael Kay, Beltran admitted that he cheated. “Looking back now—yes, we did cross the line,” Beltran said. He also mentioned that he wished someone would’ve stopped him. “I wish the organization would have said to us, ‘What you guys are doing, we need to stop this,’” Beltran said.

Even though there were people directly involved like Cora and Beltran, some Astros players actually didn’t approve of sign stealing and wouldn’t take part in it. Jose Altuve, who many people deem to be the ringleader of the scandal, came out and said he didn’t condone the Astros actions and wouldn’t take any part in them. While many people accused him of wearing a device on his chest that would alert him what pitch was coming, Altuve said that was never the case. So for people like Altuve who had no part in the scandal, no punishment was dished out. But for those who did cheat, hefty consequences were dealt. Manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were each suspended for a year, in addition to the 5 million dollar fine and loss of draft picks the organization was dealt.

In the end, no matter who was behind the Astros sign stealing scandal, what they did should be looked at as wrong. The team cheated, wrongly won a world series, and has to deal with the repercussions. But what they did is in the past, and it’s just time to move on.