Following accusations of sign-stealing during this year's postseason, one former Houston Astros pitcher said members of the organization devised a system in 2017 to steal signals from opposing teams.
Per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich, Mike Fiers and three other people who were with the organization in 2017 said the Astros developed a system for home games that was aided by a camera set up in the outfield.
"That's not playing the game the right way," Fiers said. "They were advanced and willing to go above and beyond to win."
The Astros issued a statement about the report, via Rosenthal: "Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time."
Rosenthal and Drellich reported the system began early in 2017 and involved "at least two uniformed Astros" who planned out how to do it. The setup "required technical video knowledge and required the direct aid of at least some on the baseball operations staff."
Fiers, who pitched for the Astros from 2015-17 and plays for the Oakland Athletics, spoke about the system because he said he wants "the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they're going in there not knowing."
The Astros' setup involved a television on a wall steps from their dugout connected to a camera feed from center field, which was trained on the opposing catcher's signs.
"Team employees and players would watch the screen during the game and try to decode signs—sitting opposite the screen on massage tables in a wide hallway [between the dugout and clubhouse]," Rosenthal and Drellich wrote.
"When the onlookers believed they had decoded the signs, the expected pitch would be communicated via a loud noise—specifically, banging on a trash can, which sat in the tunnel. Normally, the bangs would mean a breaking ball or off-speed pitch was coming."
Danny Farquhar, who made two road appearances against the Astros in September 2017 for the Chicago White Sox, told Rosenthal and Drellich he remembered hearing something coming from Houston's dugout while he was on the mound.
"There was a banging from the dugout, almost like a bat hitting the bat rack every time a changeup signal got put down," Farquhar said. "After the third one, I stepped off. I was throwing some really good changeups, and they were getting fouled off. After the third bang, I stepped off."
Both of the Astros' playoff opponents in 2018, the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox, were suspicious of the team's activities. Cleveland filed a complaint with MLB that accused a Houston employee of trying to film inside its dugout during Game 3 of an ALDS at Progressive Field.
Security removed an Astros employee from the Red Sox's dugout area at Fenway Park during Game 1 of the ALCS for having a small camera and frequently texting.
MLB cleared Houston of any wrongdoing in 2018 and 2019.
Per Rosenthal and Drellich, MLB "will attempt to learn as much as it can about the Astros' operation" during an interview with former assistant general manager Brandon Taubman in the wake of his firing for making inappropriate comments toward three female reporters after the team's ALCS win.
The Astros won their first World Series in 2017 and have won at least 100 games in each of the past three seasons, including a franchise-record 107 victories last season, when they lost to the Washington Nationals in the Fall Classic.