Astros scandal growing in scope, but not the first of its kind

Data pix.

CHICAGO — The Houston Astros’ shocking headlines this week is showing no signs of  going away.

First the revelation about the team’s sign stealing scandal, then multiple managers, plus the general manager are out as an investigation into the team’s illegal activities continues.

The consensus is that this is just the beginning. If covert sign stealing was happening right out in the open leading up to the 2017 World Series, by the team who won it that year, who else was doing it?

Retired veteran sports writer for the Chicago Tribune talked to WGN's Julie Unruh and offered his take on cheating in the game of baseball.

“The competitive forces of athletes is unfortunately what forces them to do whatever it takes to win,” Fred Mitchell, former sports writer, author and DePaul University professor, said.

Mitchell spent more than 40 years following sports for the Chicago Tribune. He wrote a dozen books and these days he teaches sports journalism at DePaul. He says baseball has a history of playing dirty and thinks recent news about the Astros sign stealing scandal made him think: They can’t be the only ones.

“When I heard this for the first time, I thought this is not an isolated situation,” Mitchelle said. “I thought other teams have other methods of relaying information to their players to get an advantage. They are aware of what’s going on with other teams. They want to keep up.”

The Astros are accused of using technology: camera shots and video feeds to read hand signals between the pitcher and the catcher just seconds before the ball reaches the batter. The league revealed the team was famous for banging trash cans during the game to relay those calls to home plate so the batter knew what was coming.

“You can believe that players utilize that camera work in the clubhouse to their advantage,” Mitchell said.

But there’s more. Thursday, USA Today reports a buzzer may have been worn by some Astros batters so the team could relay the pitch to the batter wearing a device.

“The major embarrassment for the league is to see the complicity of the coaches and the GM knowing what was going on and not doing something about it,” Mitchell said.

This news arriving on the same day Mets manager Carlos Beltran resigns for his role in the Astros sign-stealing scandal. Earlier this week, the Red Sox’s Alex Cora, fired as the team’s skipper. Cora’s being referred to as Houston’s ringleader back in the day.

“This cyber activity takes it to a different level,” Mitchell said. “And this is where baseball has decided to draw its line in the sand.”

However, Mitchell reminds us baseball has a history of bad behavior. Take Sammy Sosa in 2003 and the infamous corked bat incident. The discovery cost Sosa seven games that year.

There was also Reds great Pete Rose and his betting on the game of baseball.

And the steroid era.

“There will always be an asterisk attached to the name of Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens,” Mitchell said. “So many of these guys who were so great in their own right without any artificial help. Now forever will have that stigma that’s attached to them that they did something that was not legal.”

And they’ve written books and made movies the Chicago Black Sox of 1919 conspiring to intentionally lose the World Series.

About 100 years later, the Houston Astros now making history of their own.

“This team and its franchise will be forever smeared and tainted with this scandal,” Mitchell said.

As for the Astros 2017 World Series title, Mitchell said he’d be shocked if the league would vacate it.

So far, no players have been implicated in the Astros scandal. Mitchell thinks that may be due to the power of the players’ association.

The Cubs Convention kicks off Friday. Mitchell expects questions about this kind of activity to fill the room this weekend.


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