Major League Baseball is exploring other ways through which the Astros could have relayed signs they were allegedly stealing electronically from their opponents, according to multiple reports, including one from Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci.
The investigation into the Astros stealing signs illegally stems from a Nov. 12 report by The Athletic in which former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers said that the club electronically stole signs during home games in 2017 with the help of an outfield camera. Members of the team would see the signs in real time through a monitor in the dugout and relay them to batters by banging on a trash can to indicate an off-speed pitch was coming.
Now, as part of MLB's investigates, league officials have asked players associated with the incident about “buzzing Band-Aid-like wearable stickers, furtive earpieces, pitch-picking algorithms, and other potential methods of sign-stealing," according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Players who might have violated league rules have been told by MLB officials that they can expect a more forgiving possible punishment for being truthful in their responses. But as Passan notes, a number of members of the Astros’ front office and coaching staff could face significant punishment, depending on the investigation’s conclusion.
Earlier Friday, Verducci reported that within its investigation, MLB is also looking at whether the Astros used a modified system to steal signs specifically during the 2017 postseason, a time when scrutiny would be heightened and loud methods such as banging trash cans could be easier to pick up.
Verducci also reports that by the middle of this week commissioner Rob Manfred’s investigators had interviewed “15 to 20” Astros personnel, including the 2017 coaching staff and manager A.J, Hinch—“some more than once.”
Red Sox manager Alex Cora and Mets manager Carlos Beltran were both later linked to "the sign-stealing system used that season," while they were members of the Astros. Cora was the Houston bench coach before he left for Boston prior to the 2018 season. Beltran, then the Astros' designated hitter, was named the the Mets' skipper earlier this month.
Sign stealing has a long history in baseball, but the league prohibits clubs from using electronic equipment to capture catchers' signs.
Nevertheless, the investigations decision could have a large impact on the future of the sport.
“I don’t know if MLB wants to turn over every rock, because this is the culmination of where the game is going,” a team official told Verducci. “Whatever comes out of this has to be good for the game. This gives MLB ample opportunity in this day and age to do whatever they want with protocols. You can reshape where technology is in our game. You have a golden opportunity to restructure some processes in baseball.”