Newly signed Boston Red Sox catcher Jonathan Lucroy had the unfortunate experience of seeing the Houston Astros' sign-stealing operation firsthand over the last three years.
Major League Baseball handed down unprecedented punishments to the Astros in January after completing an investigation on Houston's in-depth system created to illegally steal signs from opponents.
Lucroy played on three different American League West teams from 2016 through 2019, including the Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels. Those teams play the Astros nearly 20 times per season as division rivals, so Lucroy was well aware of Houston's actions when it came to stealing signs and relaying them to batters.
Lucroy offered a unique perspective on that experience while speaking to reporters Thursday at spring training.
"I knew about that two years ago, that it was going on," Lucroy said. "I know it just recently came out, but everybody in baseball, especially in that division who played against them, we were all aware of the Astros doing those things. It was up to us to outsmart them, I guess you could say, which is kinda hard when you have a computer program that breaks your signs.
"We actively changed signs -- almost every pitch we were changing signs. You had to because they had them -- they would relay them to second base. They were stealing them from first, too, from between your legs. They had a very intricate system going on. We were well aware of it. It was a challenge. It was a mental challenge to really overcome that. It's easier said than done. It's a shame. I'm glad it came out and was brought to light because it needed to -- it was getting out of hand. I was in that division for three years on different teams playing against them.
"There were times they were on every single pitch, and you're like how are they doing this? How is this happening? When we found out how, it was like, we got to change up signs a lot, and we did, and the swings actually got worse whenever we started to change the signs up all the time."
Lucroy also revealed that during his Athletics tenure, the team alerted the MLB to what was going on, but he doesn't think the league did much to stop the Astros.
"It was crazy. Some of the pitches they would take, it was like, man, these guys are some of the best hitters I've ever seen," Lucroy said. "It all made sense when I found out how they were doing it. Then it was like, what are we going to do? I was with Oakland, and we had let MLB know, and they just called and said something. They didn't go through the whole investigation. It wasn't until (Mike) Fiers came out publicly that they went and looked at it really hard."
"I knew about that two years ago"— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) February 20, 2020
Jonathan Lucroy talks in detail about his experience with the Astros and their sign-stealing system pic.twitter.com/GNfFOy7uVP
Players around the league have not been shy about bashing the Astros, the MLB, and commissioner Rob Manfred for how this scandal has been handled. Los Angeles Dodgers star Cody Bellinger even went so far to say Astros second baseman Jose Altuve stole the 2017 AL MVP from New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge.
The first matchup in between the Red Sox and Astros at Fenway Park is May 22. Every Red Sox fan should circle that date on their calendar.