New footage is backing up claims that the Houston Astros used technology to illegally steal their opponents' signals in their 2017 World Series winning run.
Illegal electronic sign stealing could be sport's next big scandal, in the wake of so many others such as the NFL's 'deflategate" and rugby's 'bloodgate' and numerous 'spygates'. Maybe it will become 'signgate'.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, when questioned about the growing scandal today, said an investigation would be thorough and suggested punishments could be tough on the Astros, who were beaten in this year's World Series.
The allegation is this: the Astros set up a camera in centre field to film the signals being made by the LA Dodgers catcher to their pitchers. This information was immediately relayed to a monitor near the dugout, and the Astros banged a trash can or whistled to inform the batters.
Mike Fiers, who pitched for the Astros that year, has become a baseball whistleblower. He confirmed the signal system was used for home games during the 2017 season to alert batters to off-speed pitches. The claims first emerged in a report by The Athletic this month.
The Athletic identified an Astros coach named Alex Cora, now the Boston Red Sox manager, and designated hitter Carlos Beltran, now the New York Mets manager, as the key instigators of the system.
The electronic tracking of signals is illegal and Major League Baseball is investigating. But the story has blown up this week because of a video put online by a Twitter user named Jomboy who analysed footage from a new documentary on the Astros. (The Astros opted not to comment on it)
Fox reported: "A video clip taken from the documentary and posted online by Twitter user @Jomboy_ showed Astros players walking past a table set up between the team's dugout and locker room, with a laptop, cable and trash can on display, as well as a towel blocking the line of sight between the field and the table. The scene's contents matched a description from The Athletic report earlier this month that detailed the alleged sign-stealing and prompted league officials to look into the matter."
"Astros are a bunch of cheaters" was a Los Angeles Times subheading. But it did note that it was still an allegation, and that The Athletic story contained a claim from an astros insider that the system came to an end before the post-season games in 2017.
GolfDigest weighed in, with a headline proclaiming "The Houston Astros are giving the Patriots a real challenge for Most Loathsome Franchise"
The NFL New England Patriots were at the centre of the 'deflategate' controversy, related to incorrect air pressure in footballs, and an earlier 'spygate', when their coaches taped New York Jets' signals from an unauthorised position.
Greg Nelson wrote: "If you had asked me a year ago when another team, in any sport, would emerge to challenge the Patriots' hegemony as the world's most-hated athletic organisation, I'd have said, 'not in my lifetime'.
"But folks...damned if the Houston Astros aren't giving it the old college try."
Their Astros' 2019 efforts include having to fire an executive who taunted female reporters, in relation to a domestic violence accusation involving a player the club had signed.
The New York Yankees actually accused the Astros of whistling during the American League Championship Series, only to be called bad losers by Astros manager A. J.Hinch.
The Astros lost this year's World Series to the Washington Nationals, an increasingly popular result it seems.
Now baseball is having to wrestle with how to deal with 'signgate', possible punishments, and whether other teams have transgressed.
After a heavy piece of batting analysis, FiveThirtyEight's Travis Sawchik wrote: "Houston has enjoyed the lowest strikeout rate in baseball and the third-best slugging mark. That efficiency helped them to the most productive lineup since the Murderer's Row Yankees. Maybe they are that good, but they may have also had some help along the way."