The Astros say they stopped cheating by the 2017 postseason; evidence says otherwise

An excerpt from 'Cheated' tells the deeper story of the 2017 Dodgers-Astros World Series and the lengths the Astros went to win a tainted World Series title

6/13/2021 11:33:00 PM

'Although rumors had begun to spread throughout the league about the Astros, opponents remained short on facts,' writes Andy Martino, author of 'CHEATED: The Inside Story of the Astros Scandal and a Colorful History of Sign Stealing.'

An excerpt from 'Cheated' tells the deeper story of the 2017 Dodgers-Astros World Series and the lengths the Astros went to win a tainted World Series title

More CoverageDodgers still waiting for season to take off as they enter soft part of scheduleIn Game 3, he noticed — and of course shared with teammates — that when Darvish prepared to throw a fastball, he rotated the ball in his glove in search of the proper grip. He didn’t do this for off-speed pitches.

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The Astros knocked Darvish out of the game after one and two- thirds innings — the shortest outing of the pitcher’s distinguished career.AdvertisementIn his 2020 interview with Rosenthal, which was intended to show that the Astros did not benefit from cheating in the postseason, Correa would note that the scoring plays in that game were not a result of changeups crushed out of the ballpark, but weaker hits and poor fielding:

“Marwin [González] hits a [single] with men on first and second. That’s [two] runs. Brian McCann hits a single with a man on second. Again, multiple signs. That’s [three] runs. [Alex Bregman added a sacrifice fly later that inning.] Evan Gattis, with [Josh] Reddick at first, hits a chopper to the pitcher, [Tony] Watson. He throws it away. Reddick scores from first. Those are the five runs we scored that day.”

The problem with that logic? It wasn’t always the hit that made a sign-stealing process effective; it could also be the takes earlier in the at-bat that enabled it to progress to a chopper or a throwing error.In the plays that Correa referenced, González took a first-pitch slider before hitting his single on a fourth-pitch slider. McCann worked a seven-pitch at-bat. Gattis’s chopper came on the third pitch, right after he took a changeup.

AdvertisementThere was no way to know exactly how sign stealing affected these at-bats, but to reference only the pitch that produced contact is an incomplete accounting.Correa also noted that the Dodgers changed their sign sequences for the series, making it much more difficult to decode them. That is true. But again, the trash can and monitor were there, as were Astros players making the same ethical calculation about using them as they did during the regular season.

::Dodgers suspicions about methods of potential cheating were not limited to sign stealing.AdvertisementBefore every game, an employee of the home team is assigned to “rub up” or “mud up” the game balls, massaging a dark substance into the baseball in order to make it less slick and easier for a pitcher to grip.

Often at Minute Maid Park that was the job of clubhouse manager Carl Schneider, who did it in the umpires’ room with varying degrees of supervision —umps didn’t tend to watch this closely.The balls then went to a batboy, who, of course, was an employee of the home team. His job was to give those balls to the umpire throughout the game.

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Shortly after the series moved back to Houston, the Dodgers felt that Astros pitchers were rejecting baseballs more frequently than is typical, tossing them back to the umpire and requesting new ones.AdvertisementThen an L.A. pitcher approached his front office with an observation: The balls that the Astros were using were mudded up differently. They were visibly darker.

“These game balls are suspicious,” the pitcher said.A similar issue had arisen in 2010, when the San Francisco Giants accused the Colorado Rockies of misusing the humidor that stored baseballs at Coors Field. The humidor was there to help deaden the baseballs in the Rocky Mountain altitude, where they tended to fly out of the park for cheap home runs.

The Giants believed that the Rockies were using the humidor balls only for their pitchers and were giving opposing pitchers untreated balls. MLB instituted a new policy that the umps had to personally watch as the balls were removed from the humidor and placed in a ball bag. The bag had to remain in the umpires’ sight throughout the game.

AdvertisementThis time, the Dodgers thought that the Astros had balls mudded up more heavily for their pitchers, and that the batboy would deliver those to the ump during innings when the Dodgers were batting. When a Houston pitcher accidentally got a ball intended for the opposing pitcher, he would toss it back.

In 2017 MLB did not offer much guidance on how a baseball was supposed to be mudded up, so it was difficult to punish a team for it. In 2018 the league created and distributed posters showing the acceptable level of darkness for a game ball. Teams were directed to hang them in clubhouses.

In that way, even a complaint about the baseballs, unknown to the public until now, would change the rules of the game forever. It was an historic, era-defining World Series in so many ways.Cover of Andy Martino’s book “Cheated”. Read more: Los Angeles Times »

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