HOUSTON — Sign-stealing in baseball is common. The MLB actually allows it, but using technology to do so is expressly forbidden in the league's rules.
According to a statement from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, he warned all teams in the middle of the 2017 season that teams using any type of technology to gain an advantage would face harsh punishment: the general manager and field manager would be held accountable.
That statement was sent to all teams after the Boston Red Sox were caught transmitting sign information from the replay review room to people in the dugout wearing smart watches in August 2017.
According to the MLB investigation, the Astros continued to use a camera in center field (normally used for player development) to show the signs the opposing catcher would give his pitcher, and transmit that live feed to a monitor outside the dugout. Players would watch, decode the sign, then hit a trash can with a baseball bat to communicate to the player at-bat what pitch was coming.
"Sign-stealing has been a part of the strategic advantage inherent within baseball for more than a century," said Syracuse University Prof. Brad Horn, former vice president of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. "The question that they put to the test was simply, how far can we go given the technology and the resources to do what’s been a part of baseball culture for its entire existence."
MLB's rules clearly state using technology to gain an advantage is not allowed. Horn believes it shows a systemic problem of cheating.
"It comes back to an ethical compass, and ultimately, the Astros organization failed in this respect," Horn said.
Astros broadcaster Geoff Blum played for the team for five of his 14 seasons in the league and said he has felt many different emotions in the last 24 hours.
“I was friends with Jeff (Luhnow). I was friends with AJ (Hinch), so it’s very saddening for me to watch them have to go through this on their watch because they had done so many great things up to this point," Blum said.
Horn believes a scandal like this could happen again with another team.
"For all the good that comes with technology, with that comes the double-edged sword of how much information is too much information?" Horn said.