Astros say they’re cooperating with MLB investigation into video sign stealing

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 30: Jose Urquidy #65 of the Houston Astros reacts after allowing a two-run single to Adam Eaton (not pictured) of the Washington Nationals during the ninth inning in Game Seven of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 30, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Houston Astros organization said it’s cooperating with a Major League Baseball investigation of allegations the team used a hidden camera to help steal signs during their 2017 championship season.

The investigation stems from a report Tuesday in The Athletic, a sports news website, in which former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers — who now pitches for Oakland — said he warned his new teammates that at their home games Houston used an outfield camera fixed on the opposing catcher to steal signs and relay the information to hitters.

The feed from the clandestine camera was seen in a television monitor near the Astros dugout, Fiers told The Athletic.

Pitch selection was then communicated to the hitter via a banging sound caused by striking a trash can in the area of the dugout, according to the website. The bang would alert the hitter to a breaking ball or off-speed pitch. No bang signaled a fastball.

“I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing,” Fiers told The Athletic.

“Young guys [pitchers] getting hit around in the first couple of innings starting a game, and then they get sent down,” added Fiers, who also pitched for the Detroit Tigers. “It’s (BS) on that end.”

Fiers’ representatives have not responded to a request for comment from CNN.

In response to the story in The Athletic, the Astros organization said it has “begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball.”

“It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time,” the team said in its statement.

Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow was asked by reporters about the accusation Tuesday at the annual meeting of general managers in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“Specifically, I’m not going to get into exactly what I knew or anybody knew at this point,” Luhnow said.

“So we’re going to have to wait and see. I’m sure there would be an appropriate time to answer that question directly. I’m not trying to avoid it. I just think at this point we are going to investigate it and figure out what the facts are. And then we’ll respond after that.”

In a statement, MLB said it released new rules on sign stealing prior to the season that just ended.

“Beginning in the 2017 season, numerous Clubs expressed general concerns that other Clubs were stealing their signs,” MLB said in the statement Tuesday.

“As a result of those concerns, and after receiving extensive input from the General Managers, we issued a revised policy on sign stealing prior to the 2019 season. We also put in place detailed protocols and procedures to provide comfort to Clubs that other Clubs were not using video during the game to decode and steal signs. After we review this new information we will determine any necessary next steps.”

The Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series.

Sign stealing among teams is almost as old as the game itself. Base runners at second base have been known to relay pitch selection to hitters. But MLB rules prohibit the use of electronic devices to steal signs.

“That’s not playing the game the right way,” Fiers told The Athletic, referring to the Astros’ alleged use of a centerfield camera.

“It’s ruining jobs for younger guys,” he told the website. “The guys who know are more prepared. But most people don’t. That’s why I told my team. We had a lot of young guys with Detroit (in 2018) trying to make a name and establish themselves. I wanted to help them out and say, ‘Hey, this stuff really does go on. Just be prepared.'”

The Astros were accused of sign stealing this postseason.

An investigation determined the Astros “did not engage in any activities prohibited by MLB policies” amid questions about whether the team relayed signs to hitters from the dugout with whistling during Game 1 of the 2019 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, according to Bleacher Report, citing a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

The Astros also came under MLB scrutiny last month after assistant general manager Brandon Taubman had a postgame outburst aimed at female reporters following the team’s ALCS victory. The team later fired Taubman.

The Houston Astros lost Game 7 of the World Series last month to the Washington Nationals.

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