The Sign Stealing Scandal: What you Need to Know


Dohyun(Andy) Ju, Editor-in-Chief of Special Assignments

In Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, the Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers to take home the title.

Now, following a recent sign-stealing controversy, the former champions are considered to be one of the biggest cheaters in Major League Baseball (MLB) history.

The Red Sox, who defeated the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series, are wrapped up in a similar scandal.

According to ESPN, sign stealing is the process of decoding an opponent’s signs, which consist of either a catcher’s signal of what pitch to throw or the third base coach’s symbolic instructions to the batter.

The Astros’ former bench coach and Red Sox’s manager Alex Cora used this form of cheating to lift both of his teams over the Dodgers in the World Series. Cora used a camera in center field to get footage of the Dodgers’ signals. The Astros watched and reviewed the feed in the dugout and then banged on trash cans to relay to the batter which pitch was coming, a move that dramatically impacted the outcome of the World Series.

Cora used a different strategy for the Red Sox, using the replay review room and Apple Watches to signal the pitch to the runner on second base, who, would in turn, relay signals to the batter.

In response to this controversy, the LA City Council is calling on the MLB to award the 2017 and 2018 World Series titles to the Dodgers, because both teams the Dodgers played against cheated.

Senior Julian Jacobson, the starting catcher on the Pali baseball team who has been team captain for all four years, disagrees with the request. Jacobson, who is an Angels fan, argues that the 2017 title should be vacated, adding that his extensive knowledge of baseball overrides any personal biases he may have against the Dodgers.

Jacobson mentions that “the Astros beat multiple teams (specifically, they beat the Red Sox, Yankees and lastly the Dodgers) en route to winning the World Series in 2017.” He says that, for this reason, “it would not be logical to reward the Dodgers with the 2017 title, because if they are seen to have beaten the Astros without them cheating, then the Red Sox and the Yankees would be able to make the same argument.”

Currently, the Astros are facing a number of penalties. Manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were fired shortly after news of the scandal surfaced. Former assistant GM Brandon Taubman has been suspended for one year. The Astros have been fined $5 million and must forfeit their first- and second-round draft picks in each of the next two years.

Freshman Soren Apple, a Dodgers fan, agrees with Jacobson. He said that “stripping the Astros of their title would be a much better punishment [than the fines and suspensions they are currently facing]”, while recognizing that “it would be unfair to give the 2017 and 2018 championships to the Dodgers.”

As for Alex Cora, Jacobson says that “[he] should have a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball,” because “he was the creator of the cheating system as the bench coach for the Astros, and started the less prominent but still immoral and illegal cheating system for the Red Sox.”

Historically, the MLB has been very serious about the issue of cheating ever since the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. In this scandal, underpaid players on the Chicago White Sox intentionally threw their World Series games in order to make money off of gamblers betting against them.

Junior Evan Davis, who has been a Dodgers fan since he was six, argues that the coaching staff, not just Cora, should be suspended indefinitely. He believes that “a one-year suspension is not enough and they should be banned from ever coaching in the Majors.” Additionally, he said he thinks that all the Astros’ players should be fined and punished more directly, since they did not speak out against the cheating while it was still going on.

In the wake of this scandal, Jacobson says that it will be an important opportunity for the MLB to address the widespread problem of cheating. Quoting Pali baseball coach Mike Voelkel, Jacobson says that “the MLB has a chance to set a precedent in a society driven by ‘lying, denying, and blaming others.’”