A few years ago, the Astros were the victims of the biggest example of team-on-team espionage in recent memory. That incident, wherein a Cardinals executive accessed the Astros computer database, resulted in a prison sentence but not much else in the way of punishment from the league.
Maybe the Astros leaned hard on that precedent when they defended themselves against the report that surfaced last night, because MLB has apparently bought their defense, which essentially amounted to “We were just making sure they weren’t cheating.” The report claimed they had been taking pictures of other team’s dugouts, and the activity was apparently blatant enough that Cleveland warned the Red Sox about it prior to the ALCS.
Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that the Boston Red Sox were warned by the Cleveland Indians about “a man credentialed by the Houston Astros” potentially stealing signs or information during the ALCS.
The Indians reportedly caught the man, Kyle McLaughlin, using a cell phone to take photos in the direction of their dugout during Game 3 of the ALDS, and the Red Sox found him doing the same in Game 1 of the ALCS. McLaughlin was removed by stadium security by both the Indians and Red Sox.
Now, less than 24 hours later, MLB has already wrapped up the “investigation”, according to a statement:
“With respect to both incidents regarding a Houston Astros employee, security identified an issue, addressed it and turned the matter over to the Department of Investigations. A thorough investigation concluded that an Astros employee was monitoring the field to ensure that the opposing Club was not violating any rules,” MLB said in a statement.
“All Clubs remaining in the playoffs have been notified to refrain from these types of efforts and to direct complaints about any in-stadium rules violations to MLB staff for investigation and resolution. We consider the matter closed.”
Again, this isn’t an isolated incident; the report included claims that the Athletics had called for an investigation into the Astros for stealing signs, as well. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow summed up his team’s defense thusly:
Speaking to reporters Wednesday before Game 4 of the ALCS, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said they were “playing defense” in monitoring other teams. He said the Astros check out opposing stadiums as a matter of course to make sure there are no electronic devices being used by the opponents that could give them an advantage.
So essentially, Houston is arguing that they need to have team-affiliated people filming dugouts to prevent…what? Someone filming their dugout? In what world does this make sense, aside from the one we’re in, where Rob Manfred and MLB clearly just wanted this story to end so the “focus” could return to the MLB Postseason. It makes you wonder just what a team could get away with without being punished, as long as they did it in October.