As part of an organized probe into Houston’s alleged use of technology to steal signs, investigators under the direction of commissioner Rob Manfred met with “15-20” Astros personnel this past week, according to Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated. Members of the club’s 2017 coaching staff, including manager A.J. Hinch, were among those to interview with investigators, with a source familiar with the investigation telling Verducci that Mike Fiers’ description of the club’s sign-stealing operation has proven accurate. According to Verducci’s report, the scheme–which is said to have relied upon a center-field camera, dugout televisions, and trashcans to signal forthcoming pitches to club hitters–was used for a period of “about three months” in 2017, but investigators are still trying to determine whether the club deployed this system during the playoffs.
A separate investigation is looking into a directive from a Houston front office employee, Kevin Goldstein, to club scouts that suggested the use of cameras to surveil opposing dugouts in 2017. As Verducci’s piece notes, these investigations could have a wide-ranging impact on the broader role of technology in today’s game, where laptops, monitors, and cameras are omnipresent in team clubhouses and video rooms.
A few other items of note from around the game…
- Speaking of the commissioner, Manfred spoke with reporters Thursday at the owner’s meetings in Arlington, with several interesting comments on the league’s proposed reorganization of Minor League Baseball, as relayed by Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser. As Manfred tells it, the league’s overture toward the contraction of 42 minor league affiliates was made in response to four key problems plaguing their system–namely, poor facilities, long travel times, low pay, and a lack of realistic opportunity for many players to make the majors. Manfred doesn’t take kindly to the response issued by minor league officials to the league’s suggested plan–which reportedly would include not only contraction but also the creation of a “dream league” for undrafted players–but he still feels bullish about the ability of both parties to conclude a new working arrangement. “But at the end of the day Minor League Baseball needs to make an agreement with us and I’m sure we probably will make an agreement at some point,” said Manfred. MiLB President Pat O’Conner may not take as rosy of an outlook to this ongoing process, with his recent comments conveying suspicion in regard to the league’s plan. In quotes relayed by The Athletic’s Evan Drellich on Oct 19, O’Conner characterized the plan as a “death sentence” for the 42 teams affected, while also suggesting that the league’s proposed restructuring represents an attempt by MLB to exert more control over the minor leagues.
- Meanwhile, also in Texas, an offseason event allowed Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News to speak with several Rangers players, including Taylor Hearn and Nomar Mazara (Twitter links). Hearn, who just wrapped an injury-wrecked 2019 that included an inflamed UCL and a fracture underneath his elbow, told Grant that he threw four bullpens in October, followed by a few weeks of rest. Hearn has resumed his throwing program and should be ready to prep for 2020. The 25-year-old lefty appeared in just four minor league games this season, also making his MLB debut in an April 25 start that lasted one-third of an inning. As for Mazara, club officials apparently told the 24-year-old during his 2019 exit interview that he should prepare to play some first base next season. Mazara told Grant that he is prepared to do some work at first, but he is still expected to be used primarily as an outfielder moving forward. Mazara has generally graded out as a slightly below-average defensive option on the grass, recording -2.7 UZR and -4 DRS figures in right field last season. The Rangers have been connected to outfielder Marcell Ozuna this winter, while trade rumors connected Mazara’s name to several teams in advance of this past season’s July 31 trade deadline.
Not that it matters, but was their ever any reason given why Mike Fiers decided to come forward with that information at this time?
Was their bad blood, a guilty conscience, or something else that made him come forward? Just seemed a bit odd timing on his part for a guy presumably hoping to land more jobs after his pact with Oakland expires.
It’s possible that he has some integrity and wanted to call light to an issue that he had a problem with. Going on record meant that people would listen. He may be a snitch/whistleblower, but he got this thing going which should be applauded.
If he is telling the truth, integrity 2 seasons after the fact I don’t think he’s deserves that designation. It’s like players apologizing and saying how bad they feel after, not before, they are caught (IE: the steroids last decade). The fact he knew this was going on, if true, he deserves to be punished just like anybody else involved in this. Had he come out in 2017 when it is said to have happened, I would agree with you and say he has integrity and would agree he is a whistle blower. 2 seasons after it happened, he’s not a whistle blower in my book. I would believe he was approached with evidence or something, again if true, and fessed up. I’m trying really hard to hang on to presumption of innocence, it’s getting hard but until the “sources” are verified I’m holding judgement.
How many ABs did Fiers have in 2017? And he was the ONLY one that came forward, no matter the timing. He stuck his neck out, while all of the cheaters, and those aware of the cheating, stayed silent.
3 did. He was the only one to not be anonymous
Agree and disagree. I agree he should be punished like anyone else on the team. I disagree that he shouldn’t be considered a whistleblower. Of course he is. Is there anyone on the Red Sox stepping forward to tell the truth, i.e., blow the whistle? No. No whistleblowers there. Fiers blew the whistle. Early or late, he blew the whistle. Period.
Also, I doubt the Astros only used the technology/program for three months. I’m sure they used it in the postseason, 2018 and 2019. When you’ve got a golden goose, you don’t kill it. And I’m sure they felt they had a golden goose.
he is not a snitch in a prison.
Doubt it was his integrity. Watch one of his no-no videos. He clearly is using a foreign substance.
“He clearly is using a foreign substance.”
Well that accusation would possibly vindicate Bauer for accusing Verlander and Cole of using a foreign substance. Would explain why Verlander’s ERA dropped 2.4 and Cole’s 1.5. We’ll never know because there aren’t any whistleblowers for Astros pitching, just your accusation (and Bauers).
Just look at Fiers numbers pitching in Houston since he left the Astros
4 starts, 16 innings, 31 hits, 20 earned runs, 8 Home Runs allowed
Wouldn’t you be upset if you knew they were cheating?
To be fair, the lit him up in Oakland too. It could just be that the Astros are the Astros and Mike Fiers is…..well…..not very good.
He threw a no-hitter. That doesn’t happen if you’re not very good.
Phillip Humber threw a perfect game. Just saying.
Tom E. Snyder
Unless you cheat by putting a foreign substance on the ball.
His pitching performance has nothing to do with stealing signs, which is illegal. You’re just trying to deflect the attention.
He spoke up because he was warning his teammates, which any smart teammate would do. Duh.
Maybe he was asked and didn’t want to lie. It’s seems like it was public knowledge within the game. He told his team. Perhaps a few pitchers who were his friends. You think he’s going to keep it a secret from the new team he’s playing for?
I would have told my teammates. I would have warned them what goes on in Houston. And once it got out I warned my team, you can bet the commissioner noticed.
If you read his quoted words in early reports, a large part of his rationale was that he felt young pitchers were having their careers ruined by the system.
He said something to the effect of:
because of the recent, analytics-based changes in the baseball operations, a lot of young pitchers get just a small amount of time to prove themselves, with teams cycling through players with options — and how just one bad appearance with a cheating opposing team torching a young arm could make it so that young player never gets another call up.
Maybe he watched it happen one too many times over the years and came out to stop it from happening again; maybe there was an incident of a young career being affected that finally overrode any feeling of shared culpability that kept everyone involved from speaking out, with the constant threat that anyone who talked would also get in trouble by benefiting from it if they reported it.
And/or maybe the accusations in this last postseason against the Astros (with the whistling) made him suspect that what he thought was a one time thing a few years ago wasn’t isolated, and that the Astros had just changed up the signs and got fed up with it.
I’m sure he will get asked in the coming months, but I am sure that MLB, the MLBPA, his agent, and his publicist will either be carefully advising him about what to say (or actually censuring him) moving forward for the good of his career and damage control for MLB.
Whatever his reason, I’m glad he stepped forward, even if it was two years later.
I think I was listening to Baseball Tonight one of the analysts had said he first said something because his new team was playing the Astros. He was warning his team mates.
so what? people are clearly glad this had come to light and he is responsible for it. its like asking someone why thet commited tax fraud. who cares, its illegal either way.
What also brought it to light is the Yanks caught on to what was happening. The Astros has been accused before of stealing signs with cameras but nothing had any real evidence. Friers was not the only one to come forward 2 other un-named came forward. Astros need to be punished and those in management knowing about it suspended for a year.
He’s a pitcher, he’s not getting tipped off. He’s not part of it. He’s part of a team that’s cheating. He’s not going up there with a patch that vibrates once for a fastball.
He’s not the one committing tax fraud.
He said that that it upset him that new pitchers could get lit up because they were having their signs stolen, then potentially never get another crack at it.
I thought I saw something with Friers explaining how he did not like the fact how the Astros would take advantage of certain pitchers, especially younger ones who pitched poorly against the Astros and would be sent down to veteran pitchers trying to earn a contract. I could be wrong but I thought I saw something like this.
I don’t believe he “came forward” with anything, it was just a question asked by the reporter in a general interview and he chose to answer truthfully.
Who would be coming forward.
What about 2018 and 2019?
They’ve already disclosed those years involved sign stealing with these systems, as well.
No, they said they were going to look into whether it extended into 2018 and 2019. They never said it DID.
The link to Baseball America still don’t work. Is it subscription only?
Amazing Manfred is worried about the minor leagues as the Majors are taking a dive. The sport is attracting few of the younger generation and gets longer every year , but hey let’s focus on the minor leagues.
“four key problems plaguing their system–namely, poor facilities, long travel times, low pay, and a lack of realistic opportunity for many players to make the majors.”
Its streamlining and modernizing the MiLB system. The minors is just one facet of the MLB and surely not the sole focus.
who made sure minor leaguers get low pay? it’s the commissioner, for god’s sake!
It’s called supply and demand.
It’s called livable wage
Exactly, why do MacDonalds workers make more money than minor leaguers? Why is it seen as a positive that Josh Reddick had to deliver pizzas when he should have been working out or watching video?
Major League teams should subsidize their development organization. They have the money. No reason those players couldn’t earn $35K – $100K, depending on level. It’s just greed.
i don’t understand why long games deter younger generation’s interests in baseball? football games are just as long. are all young people adhd patients?
This whole young people hate long games narrative just isn’t completely true. They’ve been saying this for years now, but I hate the pace of play crap. The games are fine. If you really like baseball, then the length is great, not a problem. I was probably about 15 or 16 when I first started hearing this bs, young people hate long games, I’m 25 now. I love it. I’ll be pissed if they keep messing with it honestly
Young people don’t hate long games, they hate boring boomer commentators telling them about how good things were in 1975 and how RBIs and pitcher w-l are the most important stats.
MLB has more talent in the game than ever, including the greatest player of all-time, but these guys have to have personalities like wallpaper or else the gatekeeper boomers with the microphones and keyboards in front of them will clutch their pearls, totally forgetting how low rent and r-rated the players acted in the 70s.
they hate boring boomer commentators telling them about how good things were in 1975 and how RBIs and pitcher w-l are the most important stats.
This has been going on forever. FB announcers are eons ahead of BB announcers. I’m an old guy, but I want to be challenged. I have all the basics down, probably up to spin rates, and horizontal/vertical drop. Even then, while I’m not familiar with the baselines, I understand the concepts.
FB announcers get way, way deeper.
I said that the other day when someone was complaining about the length of a game and welcomed another stupid rule to speed things up. The people who complain about the length of a game are people seeking to be entertained by anything, not necessarily baseball. Every pitch, every step off, every mound meeting is part of the strategy. It’s what makes baseball great.
yeah, you must think joe buck is great!
Joe Buck is just awful, doesn’t matter what sport.
I don’t see the whole “young people hate long games” as the real argument. I think the argument is that people in general, aside from a small percentage of the population known as diehard baseball fans, don’t like the pace of the game. They feel it is like watching paint dry. That’s what it’s about. 1) Age has nothing to do with it, it’s the “age” we live in (almost all of us have shorter attention spans, turn to our phones every chance we get), and 2) length of game is not central, but pace of play. Some but very few like the strategery of watching a batter step out of the box or pitcher step off the mount. Most people who would otherwise follow the sport more avidly just don’t like it. That’s why they need a swimming pool in the outfield and a couple of sit-down restaurants to hang out in. Love ’em or hate ’em, these people help pay the bills so diehard baseball fans have games to watch. You can’t deny it.
Mo – Again, I think you’re projecting how you feel onto other people. You can’t say you are a fan of baseball and then say you want to change fundamentals of the game to better suit your taste.
For me, I’m not a football fan. One of the things I don’t like about it is the last 2 minutes of a game can take 20 minutes to play with time outs. There is no difference between that strategy in football lengthening a game and the strategic nuances of baseball doing the same. I wouldn’t support changing the game of football just to suit me. I can choose not to watch it.
This contraction seems like a hollow threat with upcoming CBA run by a bunch of bean counters who don’t know anything about baseball. They should go back to their venture capital speculator jobs. There, it’s all about slimming down and squeezing every red nickel.
For the past few years we’ve experienced off seasons where a lot of veteran players were not signed in FA. Just look at how the media is so shocked there are some early signings this year!
Bean counters want to say the system needs a streamline because there is little opportunity for advancement. Most players leave the minors because they make literally nothing. It doesn’t fit the narrative of anyone paying attention to the game.
Expand the league.
Expand the league.
If there were sustainable markets out there, MLB would put a team there tomorrow morning.
And the reason why older veterans don’t get signed as quickly or as expensively is because age is not kind to BB players.
Last expansion year, 1998: 276.1 Million
2019: 327.2 Million
Combine that with an ongoing migration to cities.
I don’t see cutting off baseball in 42 towns leading to more interest in baseball in those 42 towns. This move is short sighted.
I grew up going to minor league games. I moved to a bigger city and now go to major league games. Abs I’m far from alone con that regard.
Take minor league games out of my childhood and I’m probably not in love with an evening at the ballpark.
Agree completely. In a lot of places, MiLB will be the only in-person contact you have with professional baseball.
Also, ticket and concession prices are reasonable enough for normal people to go and take their families. If baseball is worried about maintaining a fan base moving forward, contracting the minor leagues is D-U-M dumb.
congress may think about taking away monopoly protection.
If anything, Congress would likely side with MLB not MiLB. Unfortunately. They tend to follow the money.
did you see the news that 100’s of congressmen have sent a letter opposing to planned changes to minor league system?
I think Houston felt guilty about lighting up Darvish in the WS so they came forward to announce he was “tipping” pitches, which prolly was stealing signs rather then that. My team got caught in 2017, Redsox, paid their fine, n let it be known it was BEFORE Cora came to Boston.
Tom E. Snyder
“Sign stealing” could explain Houston’s offensive outburst in game 3 in MMP but how do you then explain the same result in Dodger Stadium? Did the Astros use CF cameras and trash cans there, too?
No you clown, the Astros hitters are still talented, they just went the Barry Bonds route where they already were good THEN took advantage of an unpoliced area of the game.
barry bonds did what just about everyone did in those years. his real crime was alienating baseball writers.
LOL! If he did what everyone else did, how come no one else hit 70+ HRs?
he was the most talented hitter before he started using. mlb used juiced balls in ’19 but only one hit 50 plus home runs.
They weren’t as good. You put a turbocharger on a passat it’s still not gonna run like a corvette.
“LOL! If he did what everyone else did, how come no one else hit 70+ HRs?”
Because Bonds even without the roids was a superstar. With roids he was out of this world. That wasn’t true for anyone else, not to the extent it was for Bonds.
Taylor Hearn had a solid ERA this year. But not a good stat to look at, that’s so 10 years ago.
i was very dissapointed when he didnt get a RoY vote.
The MLB proposal to cut the minor leagues is a little too drastic. I don’t argue that there are some poor facilities, but several of the teams that they are cutting have new stadiums or stadiums that have been upgraded. Vancouver has upgraded their stadium, as has Williamsport. State College’s stadium is quite modern. All of those teams would be eliminated. I feel like there still needs to be a rookie ball level single A league, even if you eliminate short-season rookie ball. Several players are in-between the Gulf Coast League & Low Single A. That’s where the rookie league comes in. Have a full season rookie league team, but make it that you can only have one per organization. You can also merge leagues or eliminate a rookie league. That would give teams 6 minor league teams, instead of the proposed 5. That will give 30 more players per team jobs & that will make the players association happy.
Other than the Nationals, I have little sympathy for team’s with long travel times. The Dodgers chose to move their AAA from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City because they wanted more control of the franchise. The Padres chose to move their team to El Paso. They could’ve kept their teams closer, but didn’t.
The Dream League is a failure waiting to happen because, while it would be co-owned by MLB & MILB, the individual teams would be responsible all the day-to-day costs including the staff & players salaries. That makes it basically an independent league and those leagues are struggling financially. This would be no different.
Rookie leagues, if by that u mean ones like the GCL are, or can be played in ST facilities which they commonly are and are of near MLB quality, MUCH better than any MiLB stadiums are. Same with high A ball FSL league.
An issue which many are not aware of and have never seen posted by anyone (except me) is that every league in the nation, except for the 2 Florida based ones actually draw well. Issue, is those Florida based ones have the great stadiums used for ST play during the spring for MLB teams and offer on the cheap homes for every one of those 2 house minor league teams, some 2-3.
Not sure about the Arizona based teams of course since not located there personally, but can tell you factually that attendance at GCL league games is 100% FREE and Lakeland Tiger games (GCL) NEVER has more than 5-6 fans and at times? I’ve been the only 1 there..
High A ball, on non giveaway evenings, the Lakeland Tigers draw sub 500 each and every evening. This is in a just redone near MLB quality stadium which seats over 5k
the lowest average attendance in milb is buies creek astros with 529 per game in ’18 according to baseball america.
Paul Popovich's Bat
Yeah but that was a known temporary situation while the club was building a brand new facility in Fayetteville that drew really well in 2019. The 2018 team played at a small college field between Fayetteville and Raleigh
What goes on in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse. Fiers should be blackballed after his contract expires. I wouldn’t trust a guy who gives up clubhouse secrets when it suits him.
if any team actively blackballs him than there is clearly something to hide. Fiers will sadly be an unfortunate martyr because apparently we live in a day in age where we still think sports players on par with soldiers in their “loyalty.” shame on anyone who has left that team and not spilled the beans. theyre clearly more loyal to a former team than the game itself.
Fiers is a hero, you are trash.
A hero? What are the standards for a hero nowadays? He benefited from the scheme and got a ring out of it. He’s a rat and I hope players treat him as such. I won’t address you calling me trash, you described yourself there.
“He’s a rat and I hope players treat him as such.”
poz – I asked you this earlier and you didn’t respond. So I’ll ask more specifically – Under what circumstances would you find it acceptable for someone to come forward with information about cheating?
If he was bothered so much by it he should’ve come clean or asked for a trade as soon as he learned about what was happening. He rode the wave, got a ring and then 2 years later he talks. I’m sure he accepted his share of playoffs money without a problem.
poz24 – Now we know where your character falls. This isn’t an internal “clubhouse issue”. Cheating affects the game well beyond the clubhouse. Where do you draw the line?
I trust Fiers way more than I trust you Poz. And I trust Fiers more than a bunch of weak willed cheaters. There are WAY TO MANY FOLLOWERS in this world who meekly go along with conspiracies. Not to mention the really weak people who actively plan and engage in such schemes. Here’s a tip of the hat to someone who has the guts to speak up.
I honestly don’t think the proposal is much to do with anything being cited. Let’s go through the list:
Travel times: if the problem is we don’t have enough teams located close together to allow a short trip for scheduling, well, they answer, let’s remove teams. BUT most of the teams being pulled are near one another, which means you aren’t removing out-of-the-way teams (iE mountain/midwest). You could simply redraw league boundaries if needed. Problem is, there are mlb teams that geographically are not located very close to anyone else – I’m looking at you seattle, toronto, so on so forth. If a minors program is to be located near the mlb club, SOMEONE has to take the hit and travel far to play them. And if we complain there isn’t enough choice for a club to be able to select an affiliate near home, how does removing clubs make more choices available?
Ok, next up, facilities. Simple answer – if a club has facilities below a standard, make them ineligible for renewal. Let market forces fix it. This arbitrary list axes some really nice facilities.
Realistic shot to reach the majors? Whys that matter? You spend huge sums on subsidizing mlb in the inner cities programs in the name of exposure and generating interest, but, you’re about to ax a pre-exising and effective tool that does just that across vast swaths of america? It makes ZERO sense, except for…
MONEY. Oh, this isn’t about “let’s do right by MiLB salary”…. this is about ANTITRUST EXEMPTION. with the bad press about seriously low wages floating about, and record earnings at mlb level, it really is time that antiquated exemption is revoked. But, so the theory goes, if they show concern enough, then maybe it skates by.
Umm… they tout saving, what, 20 million in salaries through retraction? In a 10 billion industry? That amounts to a 0.02% cost savings. They can save that by changing toilet paper brands in stadium.
Don’t buy it.
Nicely laid out AtlSoxFan. It’s plain as day that this is all about the wealthy MLB owners lining their pockets with even more cash. They refuse to pay a living wage to their minor league players, while being awash in money at the MLB level. There’s no reason why baseball can’t pay a living wage to their minor leaguers while Starbucks is able to pay a good wage and benefits to people pouring coffee.
Congress should make it clear to MLB that they can either pay a living wage AND keep the minor league structure essentially as it is OR LOSE THEIR ANTITRUST EXEMPTION.
Don’t fall for the bait and switch.
The one thing I left out is the whole “cut down on players with no shot of making it” is refuted by the dream league idea.
So, you eliminate teams of players who ARE drafted or signed internationally (showing team interest in said pkayers) only to create mlb owned clubs made up of UNDRAFTED/UNSIGNED players that shows zero team interest in said ball players by virtue of their contract status.
It’s counterintuitive UNTIL you realize it’s a CBA concession/talking point. A few years down the road it will be conveniently “phased out” due to lack of attendance and unprofitability.
Atl Sox Fan
On contraction. Well said. That’s a long comment I can get behind.
MLB teams need to subsidize their MiLB affiliates, pure and simple. Whether it is for branding in the local region or player development, the MLB team must subsidize. They have the money. If Seattle can afford a $15 minimum wage to create livable wages, and it can, then MLB teams can figure it out and get it done, too.
Ban all the Astros hitters, management and front office people from 2017 for life.
The exec who asked scouts to look into sign stealing? Absolutely. Scouts who received it and didn’t report it? Let them have a hearing before mlb to argue why they shouldnt.
Any exec, staff, who was part of putting in place or running it? Absolutely. Any coach or player? Time to plead your case before mlb.
Why the difference? Players/on field coaches, well, they’re the only ones who are “allowed” to be trying to steal signs. Its any use of technology that is the problem.
People upstairs, staff, scouts? They shouldn’t be involved at all, ever. So they’re more an automatic case.
Paul Popovich's Bat
At some point, getting electronic cheating to stop requires the MLBPA to be on board. Does Manfred have the power to ban local TV/radio for a period of time?
Hinch needs to be banned from baseball. he knew 100% what was going on, 5x worse the Pete Rose ! players need to be heavily fined/suspended. heavy draft penalties too!
Rose was betting on games he played a role in the outcome. That’s simply worse.
Hinch, all he did, at worst, is use illegal unethical means to get a win.
The problem with rose was you couldn’t trust any loss. Because of slippery slope you don’t say it’s ok to bet on your team to win, but not to lose. Not to mention winding up beholden to bookies for losses and, even though not betting to lose, having the leverage or taint of possible debts being wiped out through a well timed money making loss.
We don’t know what Hinch did or didn’t do yet. But, even the worst from what’s been alleged thus far is nowhere near as bad as the quagmire of rose’s conduct
I disagree with you both. Trying to say Rose or Hinch is way worse than the other is liking saying clubbing baby seals to death is way worse than clubbing minks. They both suck. And that’s coming from a Reds fan.
Mink coats do feel nicer than seal fur though, and at least farm raising them is sustainable.
Mlb ownership likes nothing more than taking their wives/girlfriends out, all dolled up in mink, to a nice meal with come caviar and fois gras appetizer and a tender veal main course.
“Hinch, all he did, at worst, is use illegal unethical means to get a win.”
He defrauded his opponents, the entire organizations, he defrauded MLB, he defrauded the fans. Not just goodwill but large sums of money were at stake. He should be charged with a felony. He of all people. And anyone else above him that was in on it.
Aside from justice, this would also put a dead end to the whole problem.
Manfred needs to keep out of MILB. Die-hard baseball fans (NOT THE ‘CASUAL’ FAN) are getting fed up with him and MLB DESTROYING the great game we have loved from CHILDHOOD!! Hey Manfred.. BUTT OUT!!
Band them all from baseball. Like what you did to Pete rose for 30 years ……. don’t forget fair is fair.
Mazara should play 1b because he is just too slow footed for RF. Maybe with the change his hitting will improve, but I am not holding my breath.