The Sports World Needs Its Villains

An Opinion Sports Piece from the mind of the “Sporty Court” Blog

Photo+by%3A+Isaac+Sullivan+%0A%0AAstros+shortstop%2C+Carlos+Correa%2C+waits+at+the+on-deck+circle+in+a+game+against+the+San+Francisco+Giants

Photo by: Isaac Sullivan Astros shortstop, Carlos Correa, waits at the on-deck circle in a game against the San Francisco Giants

Isaac Sullivan

BANG! BANG! BANG! on the trashcan.

These are the sounds that arouse great fits of rage among baseball fans. These are the sounds of a diabolical scheme invented by the Houston Astros banging a trashcan in an effort to steal signs illegally from their opponents during the years of 2017 to 2019.  

Sign stealing has always been a concern in baseball, and many teams have tried to find ways to gain advantages from the rest of the league. Neil Vigdor, a New York Times writer, precisely explained the action of sign stealing.

“Baseball players have been trying to decode the unspoken cues exchanged by pitchers and catchers over what pitch to throw next and the location,” Vigdor said. 

If you are still unsure about what sign stealing is, or what its purpose is, read this article: 

The Houston Astros’ Cheating Scandal 

Sign stealing began as early as 1876, when the Hartford Dark Blues, based in the state of Connecticut, were caught hiding a person in a shack in order to notify players when the opposing pitcher intended to throw a curveball. 

The sign stealing strategy of the Houston Astros was immensely more subtle, advanced, and devious. The Astros employed the use of cameras placed in center field that were able to read the signs given by the catcher to the pitcher. Team employees manning the camera then relayed these signs to the dugout by phone or smartwatch, most often to the Astros bench coach, Alex Cora, who then relayed this information to the batter. Evidently, this strategy was deemed too complicated, and the Astros changed their method. The team installed a television monitor in a hallway just outside the dugout displaying the center field camera’s view so that the players could directly see the opposing team’s catcher’s signs themselves. Using a secret code, the players then banged a code on a nearby trash can to alert the batter of the approaching pitch. The batter’s responsibility was to carefully listen to the sequence of bangs that were given and respond accordingly, giving the Astros an unfair advantage at the plate against their opponents. 

After their illegal sign stealing operation was investigated and confirmed by the MLB earlier this year, the relationship between baseball fans and the Astros has become toxic. Throughout this past season, it was very common to see inflatable trash cans thrown onto the field when an opposing team hosted the Astros. Hecklers flocked into stadiums to express their opinions directly to the “Trashtros,” as some called them. Only the most loyal fans of the Astros continued to love the team; everyone else shunned them.  

Patrick Quintua, an eighth grade U.S. history teacher at Kenilworth, has been an Astros fan for most of his life and has enjoyed every bit of the Astros 2017 World Series win, despite the cheating scandal that has possibly delegitimized their championship.

Photo by Isaac Sullivan
Houston Astros hat and Houston Astros championship hat

“I’ve been an Astros fan for over 40 years so you better believe I’m going to enjoy their first World Series win, regardless of how others feel,” Quintua said. 

It has been almost two years since the Astros sign stealing scandal erupted, and the Astros have made their way back to the World Series once again. Do not, however, think that the public has forgotten the team’s past misdeeds. Their opponent in this championship series is the Atlanta Braves, and their fans have berated the Astros’ batters with chants mocking their cheating past.  Baseball fans across America have come together to root against the Astros and their fans.

The World Series viewership has steadily declined over the past five years, with the 2020 fall classic averaging a record-setting low of 9.78 million viewers per contest.  The Astros cheating scandal may encourage more viewers to tune in to this year’s World Series, if for no other reason, than to root against a team that had been caught cheating. Whether you like them, or hate them, the Astros have brought a sense of excitement to baseball, and they are hoping to end their season with a BANG.