The Houston Astros won a World Series title in 2017, but they used an illegal sign-stealing scheme to get there. How will history remember them?
The Houston Astros were on top of the baseball world in 2017.
It felt like no one could stop them. They finished the regular season with 101 wins and 61 losses and won the AL West title with little difficulty. Their postseason run was full of tight series, winning a five-game series with the Boston Red Sox in four and a seven-game series with the New York Yankees in seven. Their World Series, against the Los Angeles Dodgers, would also go to seven games. And once again, they came out on top.
That 2017 season gave the Houston Astros their first World Series title. But now, we know that the entire season is tainted by a sign-stealing scheme. Designed by the then-Astros’ bench coach Alex Cora, the team used center field cameras to decode pitching signs and communicated them to hitters by banging on trash cans.
The scandal has cost Houston General Manager Jeff Luhnow, Manager A.J. Hinch, and Red Sox Manager (then Astros’ bench coach) Alex Cora their jobs.
So how will history look back at the 2017 Houston Astros?
It’s important to remember that the 2017 World Series might not be the only title wrapped up in this scandal. The 2018 Boston Red Sox, who were managed by Cora, are also under investigation for a similar sign-stealing scheme. If they are found guilty– and many expect they will be — their title will also be tainted.
These are not the first titles to be disgraced by sign-stealing. In 1951, the New York Giants implemented a sign-stealing system in the final months of the season that propelled them to one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history. It’s actually not that different from the system the Astros used — someone in center field used a telescope to get the pitching signals and relayed the signals to the Giants’ bullpen. The bullpen would then flash a sign to the hitters. The Giants went on to win the NL pennant using this system and it is now remembered with an asterisk next to it.
But this scandal also feels reminiscent of the steroids era in baseball. According to sources interviewed by the Athletic, this cheating scandal runs much deeper than the Astros and the Red Sox. As technology evolves, more and more teams are looking to get the edge in games. And where the line is crossed between strategy and cheating is blurred.
Even if everyone is cheating, that doesn’t make it acceptable. But it makes it about more than 2017 and the Houston Astros. This scandal is bigger than this one team and this one title.
In the future, when we talk about the Astros title, there will always be the caveat — the sign-stealing scheme. But it’s possible that every title in this era will be remembered with some asterisk, as technology evolves and the league fails to keep up with the times. And the Astros might be remembered as the first to fall, but not the last.