Astros sign-stealing effort reportedly more extensive than thought

Former Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch

Major League Baseball’s electronic sign-stealing scandal may have been going on for even longer than originally thought, according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal.

MLB last month levied a large-scale series of penalties on the Houston Astros for using live video and a series of signals to communicate opponents’ pitch types, in violation of league rules. An extensive report issued by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in connection with those penalties detailed illegal conduct by the Astros during the 2017 season, in which the club won the World Series, and 2018, and framed the effort as a largely player-driven initiative without proper management oversight to stop it. 

But the WSJ report says the effort to decode opponent signs in fact originated in the Astros’ front office in late 2016 in a project named “Codebreaker,” with the system ultimately used for both the club’s home and away games. Another Astros employee reported the computer-driven effort to detect signals as “the dark arts.”

The report as a result outlines a broader and more damning level of cheating by the Astros than what had been previously known publicly. 

The Astros have not commented on the new findings. Club owner Jim Crane did not attend league business meetings in Florida last week due to a scheduling conflict. 

Former Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who was fired in the wake of the scandal, said late last week in an interview with the MLB Network he wants to returning to managing at some point. But he did not say whether the club’s 2017 title that he skippered was tainted.

“I think everyone is going to have to draw their own conclusions,” Hinch said. “I hope over time, and the demonstration of the talent of this team and the players and the careers that are being had – we have some of the best players in the entire sport all together on the same team – I hope over time, it’s proven it wasn’t. But I understand the question.”