Source: MLB Started Looking Into Astros Early In '19 Season
MLB early this past season "instructed video monitors working in Minute Maid Park to listen for banging sounds emanating from the Astros' dugout," according to a source cited by Chandler Rome of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The Astros allegedly "stole signs" during their '17 World Series-winning season by using a "system that included players banging on trash cans to signal certain pitches." The fact that the league "directed those working at Minute Maid Park to listen for such sounds is an indication the league already had an eye" on the Astros. By comparison, a video monitor working at another AL ballpark said that they "were not 'implicitly told' to listen for any sounds from either dugout" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/19). THE ATHLETIC's Rosenthal & Drellich reported an Astros front-office exec "wrote about the team's desire to steal signs" in an email from August '17. As the club "discussed its advance scouting plans ahead of the playoffs, the executive asked the team's scouts to pursue sign stealing from the stands." The email was "sent to multiple people" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/19).
MANFRED'S MOMENT: In Boston, Sean McAdam wrote Rob Manfred's legacy as commissioner "may depend more on how he navigates the perilous labor path between now and the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement and whether he can effect meaningful gains in the sport's turgid pace of play." However, everyone "will be watching" the Astros situation "closely." Manfred has been "confronted with an issue that impacts the game's integrity." The "absolute worst thing that can happen to any sport is having paying customers doubt the authenticity of the outcome" (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 11/16). In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes the whole of MLB's power base "acted too slowly on the steroid issue," so the commissioner "must empower his investigators to go to the limit to learn what they can learn and punish harshly the wrongdoers regardless of title" (N.Y. POST, 11/19). ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote as Manfred again is "weighing discipline against one of the teams that employs him, the broad perception of him among clubs is that he needs to be tougher if he truly wants to create change." If Manfred wants to change behavior -- and the "perception of how toothless his decisions have been -- he might not have a choice but to go big in his sanctions" (ESPN.com, 11/17).
NEED TO MOVE QUICKLY: On Long Island, David Lennon asked, "Can you imagine the next-level catastrophe this whole sign-stealing debacle would have been if the Astros had taken the trophy for the second time in three years?" The "stain of a dirty champion is more difficult to rinse off when it happens to be the reigning one." MLB "wants to put this sign-stealing circus behind it as soon as possible." Lennon: "The paranoia is always going to be there, but the sport needs to silence any rumblings of impropriety. Maybe the best they can hope for is turning down the volume for a while" (NEWSDAY, 11/17).