The Astros reportedly stole signs electronically in 2017, according to The Athletic.
The league prohibits clubs from using electronic equipment to capture catchers' signs. MLB is already conducting an investigation into Houston's culture as an organization after former assistant general manager Brandon Taubman directed inappropriate comments about closer Roberto Osuna at three female reporters in October. Now, the probe could reportedly grow to investigate who knew about the Astros' sign stealing and if it's continued in subsequent seasons.
The Athletic spoke to four sources who worked with the Astros in 2017, including pitcher Mike Fiers, who said the club stole signs during home games that season with the help of an outfield camera.
"The Astros’ set-up in 2017 was not overly complicated. A feed from a camera in center field, fixed on the opposing catcher's signs, was hooked up to a television monitor that was placed on a wall steps from the team's home dugout at Minute Maid Park, in the tunnel that runs between the dugout and the clubhouse. Team employees and players would watch the screen during the game and try to decode signs—sitting opposite the screen on massage tables in a wide hallway," The Athletic reports.
"When the onlookers believed they had decoded the signs, the expected pitch would be communicated via a loud noise—specifically, banging on a trash can, which sat in the tunnel. Normally, the bangs would mean a breaking ball or off-speed pitch was coming."
Fiers told The Athletic that he informed the Tigers and Athletic's–clubs he has pitched for since 2017–about Houston's alleged sign stealing.
"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 said.
"I had to let my team know so that we were prepared when we went to go play them at Minute Maid."
Two sources told The Athletic that the sign stealing stretched into the 2017 postseason, while another denied the allegation. The Astros won the World Series that year over the Dodgers in a Game 7 victory in Los Angeles.
Former White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar told the outlet he remembered hearing "a banging from the [Astros'] dugout" when he pitched at Minute Maid Park twice in September 2017. He recalled how the noise stopped after he and his catcher changed the signs.
Allegations of sign stealing have extended beyond 2017 and the Astros. This fall, the Yankees accusing Houston of whistling to communicate pitches during the American League Championship Series. In 2017, MLB fined the Red Sox for using Apple Watches to steal signs against the Yankees at Fenway Park.
In a statement to The Athletic, MLB said multiple clubs reported concerns in 2017 over numerous teams stealing signs.
"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," Major League Baseball said. "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 released a statement on Tuesday in response to The Athletic's report.
"Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time."