September 17, 2021

What you need to know amid Astros sign-stealing accusations (ESPN)

Using technology to steal signs is an ancient weapon in baseball, going back at least to the 1951 New York Giants, who used an elaborate buzzer system at the Polo Grounds to relay the catcher’s signs during that famous pennant race that ended with Bobby Thomson’s home run.

Players rarely fess up to such activity — it took Giants players 50 years before they admitted to stealing signs, although there had been rumors for decades — so Mike Fiers‘ statement that the Houston Astros deployed a center-field camera during the 2017 championship season to help steal signs is a relative bombshell. Fiers, now with the Oakland Athletics, was a member of the Astros in 2017.

What is sign-stealing, and how does it help?

Sign-stealing is the act of decoding an opponent’s signs — usually the catcher signaling which pitch to throw. Old-school sign-stealing would involve a runner on second base trying to figure out the signs and relaying the pitch to the batter to gain the tactical advantage, usually by some set of hand signals, such as touching your helmet for a fastball or not touching it for a breaking ball. This is aspect of sign-stealing is a long baseball tradition and treated as “part of…

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