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The Houston “Asterisks”: How One Scandal Changed Baseball Forever

Throughout spring training, or baseball’s preseason, you may have seen people booing and talking negatively about the Houston Astros for “cheating,” but what did they actually do and how did this whole scandal begin? In mid-November of 2019, former Astros pitcher, Mike Fiers, accused the Astros of putting a video camera in center field of Minute Maid Park, their home stadium, to steal signs from other teams. After bench coach Alex Cora, and veteran player Carlos Beltran saw the sign from the monitor that they recently moved right behind the dugout, Cora allegedly banged on a trash can to symbolize a certain pitch was coming. These Astros players now knew what pitch was coming! MLB pitchers can throw up to 100 miles per hour and also have offspeed pitches like sliders and curveballs to trick the hitter. By knowing if a slider or curveball is coming, players would know not to swing at that pitch because these pitches usually “break” to outside the strike zone which would be called a ball by the umpire.

This clearly gave the Astros an unfair advantage at the plate. After Fiers spoke out, mind-boggling stats were released that supported this scandal. Remember how sad all those Yankee fans were on the morning of October 20th 2019, after Jose Altuve hit a walk-off home run off of flamethrower Aroldis Chapman, on a slider. These pitches are near impossible to hit 400 ft when you don’t know what pitch is coming. If you would watch a replay of some games of that series, you can, in fact, hear a trash can banging in the dugout. Stats also show that many Astros players actually had a much larger home average than on the road due to this but this was never a secret inside the minds of the players. The Astros had a reputation of being cheaters and they knew something suspicious was going on. That is why the Washington Nationals were prepared. The Yankees accused the Astros during that series of using whistles to steal signs which then manager AJ Hinch claimed this was false. The Yankees were pretty close, and they helped the Nationals prepare for the cheating possibility in the World Series. During the World Series, the Nationals scouts were looking around the stadium for anything suspicious but couldn’t find anything, until the evidence came out after their victory.

A viral video of Jose Altuve after the walk-off home run shows that he doesn’t want his teammates to take his shirt off. So what was he hiding, “a buzzer?” said the Yankees. “An unfinished tattoo?” said Astros shortstop Carlos Correa. Sources sight something sticking through Altuve’s jersey that could be something, while others are using common sense and thinking, “You are going to the World Series! How do you not let this happen to you.” Commissioner Rob Manfred said no to this idea but he did release a nine-page report at the end of January. He found evidence of cheating and decided to suspend GM Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch who was then eventually fired by owner Jim Crane. Even though many think the punishment was too small considering it was a player-driven scandal, Manfred did say after the Red Sox were caught in 2017 that this would be the punishment. Fans called for the Astros to vacate their now tainted 2017 World Series Title, other saying the players should be fined, while others said Astros owner, Jim Crane, should be banned for life. Players from around the league have expressed their disappointment, explaining how they want to “hit” the Astros with pitches the whole season. The Astros players are trying their best to apologize but they indeed used this method and did nothing to stop it. According to Manfred, former Mets manager Carlos Beltran, and former Red Sox manager Alex Cora started this cheating but it was Hinch who knew about it and did nothing to stop it. Fans have constantly booed the Astros at spring training, one fan making a sign stating, “I had a better sign but the Astros stole it.” They can’t escape this booing but maybe proving to the league that cheating didn’t have as big of an impact as others thought. Since Jim Crane couldn’t give a straight response about the scandal, it looks like the hole the Astros dug was not worth it. Players have stated that they have received countless death threats from fans. Other players report suffering from mental health issues because of the pressure they faced. No matter what anyone’s view on baseball and the scandal is, we should focus on baseball still remaining America’s past time and to not “forget we have to just go out and play,” said an anonymous Yankees official.