The New York Yankees accused the Houston Astros of using whistles to convey stolen signs during the recent American League Championship Series, and it turns out they weren’t totally off base.
According to Andy Martino of SNY, MLB investigators did find evidence of whistling in footage of Game 1 of the ALCS, but they weren’t able to identify the source.
The sign-stealing accusations
Back in mid-October, when the Yankees and Astros were playing in the ALCS, Martino reported that the Yankees dugout had noticed distinct whistling noises before certain pitches were thrown during Game 1. Once they figured it out, they started chirping at the Astros dugout. At the end of the game, they asked MLB to look into it.
MLB had an official on site during the game who didn’t report any whistling, and after an investigation the league announced that it hadn’t found evidence of any wrongdoing on Houston’s part. However, there was more to it. According to Martino, MLB had heard whistling during a review of ALCS Game 1 footage, but they were unable to determine whether it had come from a fan at Minute Maid Park or an Astros employee.
Twitter user Jomboy posted several videos from Game 1 of the ALCS last week, and seems to have identified the whistling.
This had to be the whistling the Yankees wanted to look into this past offseason. That doesnt sound like a human whistling in the crowd. pic.twitter.com/r7jcInJqQS— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) November 14, 2019
The whistle in that clip sounds clear, and it appears to come just before Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman releases a pitch. However, even with the whistles coming at vital points, it’s impossible to determine who was whistling and for what purpose.
In a subsequent video posted by Jomboy which features more pitches from the same at-bat, the original whistler inspired other people to whistle, which significantly muddies the water. Martino reported that after the Yankees complained, the whistling didn’t occur in Game 2.
What happens now?
If the whistling was the only sign-stealing accusation the Astros were dealing with right now, not much would happen. MLB has reportedly reviewed the footage and wasn’t able to determine the source of the whistling, which would put an end to things.
However, the Astros are now dealing with at least three kinds of sign-stealing accusations. There’s the whistling. There’s the trash can lid banging, which dates back to their 2017 playoff run. There’s the accusation that they used video to capture and decode opposing teams’ signs before they were conveyed via whistle or trash can lid. And there’s the brand new accusation that Kevin Goldstein, a special assistant to Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, sent emails to scouts asking for their help stealing signs from opposing teams.
Any one of those accusations would be concerning, but it would still be easy to quickly punish the Astros with little fanfare or explanation (just like MLB swiftly punished the Boston Red Sox in 2018 for using an Apple Watch to steal signs). With multiple allegations of sign stealing against the Astros, along with the accusation that they used electronics to help them do it, there’s no way that MLB can ignore it.
MLB is still investigating the Astros, but as the list of things they need to investigate them for grows larger, one thing is clear: This scandal isn’t going away.
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