The Houston Astros won the Major League Baseball World Series in 2017, but almost three years later, their win is being questioned. The coaches, players, and managers were accused of electronically stealing signs throughout the close series with the LA Dodgers. An accusation first presented itself shortly after the series was over, which was later proved through an investigation, that the team was using a camera in center field to read the pitches called by the catcher. Someone in the dugout would then make a series of loud bangs that correlated to the pitch called. For example, no bang would be a fastball, 1 bang would be a curveball, etc. During the MLB investigation, they also discovered that previous to the camera in the outfield, the Astros created a system where a runner on second base was able to relay the pitch to the batter through clapping or whistling.
So how was the team penalized, you may ask, and what was done to ensure that this would not continue into future seasons? Well, the team was fined the maximum amount of $5 million, lost a few first-round draft picks, and fired their manager and general manager. The players were not punished. Instead, MLB instated a stricter rule about what types of cameras can be used and where they can be placed in the park. Punishing the players was said to be unrealistic since it was difficult to completely figure out who was involved.
Fast-forward to the 2019 American League Championship Series (ALCS) against the New York Yankees. Second baseman José Altuve hit a walk-off home run to send the Astros to their second World Series in 3 years. As he was making his way towards home plate, his teammates gathered around waiting to celebrate. When Altuve made it home, his teammates swarmed him. In celebration, they all began taking off their jerseys, but Altuve was telling his teammates to not rip his jersey off. Some may wonder why he was so concerned with his jersey coming off, and when confronted about it, Altuve claimed it was because he could not show a certain tattoo. Amid previous allegations, fans and spectators couldn’t help but wonder if Altuve and other members of the team were wearing devices called buzzers. These are electronic devices that vibrate on the skin to tell the batter what pitch is coming next. MLB conducted another investigation following the ALCS game but determined there was not enough substantial evidence.
Many players from other teams are upset with how MLB and the team are handling the situation. They feel that not enough action has taken place and that the players have not been properly punished. There have also been several pitchers who have told the media that they are going to hit Astros batters on purpose. MLB has responded by telling these players that they will be fined, suspended, etc. if they purposely hit players, but the pitchers claim that no one will know if the pitch was supposed to hit them or if it was an accident. Several of the Astros players, including shortstop Alex Bregman and Altuve, and coaches have apologized for their choices.
Heading into the 2020 season, there are many questions and concerns surrounding the Astros franchise. Fans and spectators alike are wondering just how different this team will be. Are any changes going to be made, or will the players and staff continue to be let off the hook? The Astros had their first spring training game against the Washington Nationals on Feb. 22, which was canceled due to weather. So far, the Astros have played 10 spring training games and in five of those games, batters have been hit a total of seven times. We can only wait to see how this number will continue to increase throughout the season and what actions MLB decides to take.