Video: Astros relay signs to hitters by banging on a trash can in 2017
Earlier today, The Athletic’s Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal reported that the Astros stole signs electronically during the 2017 World Series, relaying the opposing catcher’s signs from a center field camera to a TV in the tunnel between the dugout and clubhouse. Someone would then drum on a trash can (or not) to alert the hitter as to what pitch is being thrown. The Astros are also suspected of stealing signs in the last two years as well, but The Athletic couldn’t verify those claims.
As expected, Internet sleuths went on the hunt for video evidence. Lucas Apostoleris, who has written for FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, found an example cited in Drellich and Rosenthal’s report: a September 21, 2017 game in Houston between the White Sox and Astros. In the bottom of the eighth inning with the bases empty and no outs, Evan Gattis stepped to the plate against Danny Farquhar. Farquhar said of that outing, “There was a banging from the dugout, almost like a bat hitting the bat rack every time a changeup signal got put down. After the third one, I stepped off. I was throwing some really good changeups and they were getting fouled off. After the third bang, I stepped off.”
The Farquhar/Gattis matchup in question begins at the two-hour, 56-minute mark in this video:
Farquhar goes curve, fastball for his first two pitches. One doesn’t hear any banging on trash cans. On the third pitch, catcher Kevan Smith put down the sign for a change-up. One hears two loud thumps and Gattis takes a change-up low and away for ball two. The next pitch was a fastball -- no drumming -- which Gattis fouled off. Smith and Farquhar went back to the change-up for pitch five. Bang bang. Gattis fouls off a change-up to the left side. Pitch six: fastball, no drumming. Gattis fouls it off again. On the seventh and final pitch, Smith and Farquhar went to the change-up once more. Smith put the signs down, bang-bang, this time Farquhar steps off as mentioned above. After a brief discussion on the mound -- they changed their signs -- they stayed with the change-up. No bang-bang. Gattis swings over the top and strikes out.
Free agent pitcher Carson Smith, who spent 2016-18 with the Red Sox, tweeted about the Astros:
In the article about the Astros stealing signs, they forgot to mention the bullpen catcher also relaying in signs for specific batters specific ways. Astros went to extreme measures, undoubtedly still do, and it’s paid off for them.— Carson Smith (@Carson_Smith39) November 12, 2019
It was also sketchy when the security guards/Crawford box scorekeepers kept constantly checking on our bullpen and looking up at the tv that coincidentally wasn’t working for us that series.— Carson Smith (@Carson_Smith39) November 12, 2019
Following The Athletic’s report, Indians starter Mike Clevenger tweeted a meme to Astros third baseman Alex Bregman:
Considering how embedded with gambling the sport of baseball has become, it has no choice but to seriously investigate the Astros -- and the league at large -- lest the integrity of the sport get called into question. The Astros are surely not the only team doing it, but they’re the poster child for the scandal at the moment.