Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we can go back to watch games from 2017 and see how the Astros used their now-infamous cheating against the Blue Jays.
The biggest story around baseball over the last few months has been the sign-stealing scandal with the Houston Astros. Now that punishment has started being handed down, the story has ramped back up this week, and with good reason after Houston dismissed both GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch. The Red Sox followed by “mutually agreeing to part ways” with Alex Cora, who was a coach back then, and the fallout could continue around the league.
Since the whole topic was refreshed this week, I ended up going down a rabbit hole that I’m sure a few of you have already been down. However, if you’re looking for something baseball related to keep you entertained while we wait for Spring Training, this might be just the thing.
I went back and looked at the Astros’ schedule from the 2017 season, and sure enough they played two series with the Blue Jays. The first was a four-game set at the Rogers Centre in July, and the second was a three-game series in Houston in August. Thanks to the endless resource that is Youtube, you can actually go back and watch any of these games.
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And sure enough, you’ll find the same type of evidence that was used against the Astros, and it’s actually quite obvious when you know what you’re looking for.
For those that haven’t read into it at all, the Astros had a system that included a camera in their outfield bleachers, and a monitor that they could study the opposing catchers signs. Once they had figured out the system, they used a couple of different methods to let their teammates know when an off-speed pitch was coming while they were at the plate. The two most prominent methods were 1) by banging on a trash can, and 2) a distinctive whistling sound. It’s obvious not easy to give a verbal signal without getting caught or getting lost in the noise of the crowd, but these seemed to work for the Astros for a while, including against the Blue Jays during that August series.
The Astros took two of three from Aug 4-6 at Minute Maid Park, and in all three games there are examples of the cheating scheme that are fairly easy to pick out. You can skip through the game to find examples of your own, or there are plenty of Youtubers that have left a few time stamps, but here are a few examples:
Game 1: Aug 4, 2019 (actually shows as Aug 5th on Youtube for some reason)
Houston 16, Toronto 7
Have a listen to 1:21:19, and you’ll hear a bang before an off-speed pitch thrown by Cesar Valdez.
That example isn’t nearly as clear as what was going on during Roberto Osuna‘s appearance during the second game of the series, a contest the Blue Jays actually won.
Game 2: Aug 5, 2019
Toronto 7, Houston 6
If you go watch the ninth inning, you’ll hear all kinds of examples. However, feel free to check out 3:21:59, 3:23:04, and 3:23:29 and that distinctive whistle is loud and clear right before Osuna’s slider. I wonder how the former Blue Jay feels about this game now that he’s on the other side of the fence.
Game 3: Aug 6, 2019
Houston 7, Toronto 6
And last but not least, the third game of the series featured more of the same. There’s a pretty distinctive thud at 2:59:15, and you can hear something similar at 3:25:00 before Alex Bregman ties the game up with a two-run double in the ninth.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting for a moment that the Blue Jays were significantly done wrong in 2017, or that losing two of these three games made a difference in their season. They went 76-86 that year, and whether the Astros stole a couple extra wins from them really isn’t all that important.
As for the Astros, I’m glad to see the league come down on them about as hard as they could, without stripping them of their 2017 championship. The Astros will lose their first and second round picks in the next two drafts, had to pay the maximum-allowable fine of five million dollars, and saw their coach and GM suspended for a year, which turned into their dismissal.
In my view, they deserve all of that and more, as the proof is obvious if you go back and watch most of their home games from that year, even the ones against the Blue Jays.