It took all of 72 hours for another Astros-centric controversy to bubble up on social media, as allegations that Houston players wore electronic “buzzers” inside their shirts during the 2019 season surfaced Thursday. However, Major League Baseball issued a statement to ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez indicating that the just-completed investigation of the Houston organization included a probe into the potential of utilization of wearable devices during the 2019 season but found “no evidence” that could substantiate any such claim.
The origin point of the latest controversy includes an anonymous Twitter account that previously claimed to be Carlos Beltran’s niece, although the Beltran family has denied the legitimacy of that user’s identity (and there’s little reason to think that Beltran, a 2019 Yankees employee, would have knowledge of a new Astros scheme anyhow). The Twitter account has since been deactivated.
Right-hander Trevor Bauer threw some fuel on the flame when he tweeted that he’s heard similar permutations of the rumor “from multiple parties.” Video of Jose Altuve imploring his teammates not to tear his shirt off before jumping onto home plate following his ALCS Game 6 walk-off home run only further drove speculation. That escalating level of speculation prompted Altuve’s agent, Scott Boras, to issue the following statement on behalf of his client to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman:
When this came up today, Jose Altuve immediately contacted me and this is his statement: ‘I have never worn an electronic device in my performance as a major league player.’ … [Altuve] has never been involved in any information with the use of an electronic device that is triggered during the course of the game. Fans need to keep in mind that there are a lot of players who are in the spider web, but they are not the black widow just because they are a member of the team or the league.
The latest wave of claims comes without the benefit of the quality reporting that brought the initial scandal to light. The Athletic’s Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal broke the initial story open back in November with a report that included on-record confirmation from former Astros right-hander Mike Fiers. This latest controversy is more speculation-driven, although Bauer’s comments at least create some intrigue. Certainly, one would imagine that the emergence of new evidence could lead to further exploration from the league, but at this juncture there’s no indication this situation has even approached that point.
The emergence of the new “controversy” only underscores the importance of Fiers’ willingness to speak on-record. Many who are rightly angry with the Astros are quick to latch onto new allegations in hopes that additional punishment will be levied, but outside of Bauer’s comment, which stopped well short of an allegation, the “buzzer” controversy is predicated on unvetted, anonymous hearsay. That’s not to rule out the possibility of additional wrongdoing, of course, but a since-deleted Twitter account and subsequent conjecture is far from a smoking gun. Until someone follows Fiers’ lead and puts their name on something concrete — or at the very least until a credible reporter finds someone (or multiple persons) of import who is willing to speak on the condition of anonymity — there’s little sense in accepting wholly anonymous accusations as fact.