The investigation into the Houston Astros's sign-stealing is not expected to be concluded until the new year, but according to SNY's Andy Martino, at least one witness admitted to MLB that the team did have a camera in centerfield used to get a competitive advantage.
"We did ask for a game centerfield feed to decode signs, as many teams do," Martino quotes a witness as saying. "All we asked for was a live feed."
Martino also reports that some of the subjects interviewed by MLB have painted a picture that they believed other teams have also used technology to decode signs and that the team did not install a new camera for sign-stealing purposes.
The investigation, according to Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci, has expanded to include the 2018 season and investigators are tasked with combing through more than 70,000 e-mail correspondences and telephone records of Astros club personnel in addition to more than 70 interviews conducted in person.
At least one person interviewed said he was asked to turn over his phone to investigators, per Verducci.
The investigation began after former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic last month the Astros stole signs in 2017 with a camera installed in centerfield. An employee read the catcher’s signs on a monitor behind the dugout and banged on a plastic trash can to alert the Houston hitter when an off-speed was thrown. The lack of noise indicated a fastball.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, league officials have also 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."
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.
MLB is also reportedly 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.
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 Mets' manager in November.
Sign stealing has a long history in baseball, but the league prohibits clubs from using electronic equipment to capture catchers' signs.
Nevertheless, the investigation's 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 in late November. “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.”