LOS ANGELES — The sign-stealing scandal engulfing Major League Baseball this week took another unexpected turn Thursday when unsubstantiated speculation surfaced on social media alleging members of the Houston Astros wore electronic devices under their jerseys to know which pitches were coming.
Major League Baseball released a report Monday stating the Astros used a live camera feed from center field to relay signs to hitters in real time during the 2017 season and for the start of the 2018 campaign. The report asserted the Astros decoded signs and communicated them to batters by banging a trash can in 2017. There was no mention of players using wearable electronic aid.
On Thursday, the league issued a statement dismissing the unproven claims, which include widely circulated photos and videos.
“MLB explored wearable devices during the investigation but found no evidence to substantiate it,” the statement read.
The investigation, according to a league spokesman, included the 2019 season, effectively signaling that the league decided the Astros did not go to those extremes to cheat. That did not impede players across the majors, including two members of the Los Angeles Dodgers, to voice their opinions on the matter on Twitter.
“For the sake of the game, I hope this isn’t true,” tweeted Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger, whose team lost to the Astros in the 2017 World Series. “If true, there needs to be major consequences to the players. That completely ruins the integrity of the game!!!”
Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood, who pitched for the Dodgers in 2017 and re-signed with the club last week, added his take to Bellinger’s tweet.
“AMEN!!!” Wood tweeted. “The fact that there hasn’t been any consequences to any players up to this point is wild.”
Earlier in the day, Wood tweeted that he “would rather face a player that was taking steroids than face a player that knew every pitch that was coming.”
MLB said its investigation included interviews with 68 witnesses, including 23 current and former players. The report declared that “most of the (Astros) position players” took part in the illicit scheme along with bench coach Alex Cora. But the only player mentioned in the report was Carlos Beltran, who has since retired, and the league did not discipline any players.
Cora was fired as manager of the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday after two seasons. The New York Mets fired Beltran as manager Thursday two-and-a-half months after he took the job.
When explaining why he decided not to penalize players, Commissioner Rob Manfred cited a memo sent to clubs in September 2017 warning them that using technology to steal signs would lead to punishment for the general manager and manager. He also insisted that disciplining individual players would be “both difficult and impractical” because of the number of players involved and the varying levels of culpability.
There was, however, a third reason, according to people with knowledge of the investigation: Mentioning active players would have undoubtedly provoked a response from the players’ union, making a messy situation messier. MLB sought to avoid that.
But the league has quickly realized that fellow players, members of the same union, are displeased with their decision-making. The public responses to Thursday’s claims, whether true or not, are evidence as the scandal continues to rock the sport.
Copyright 2020 Tribune Content Agency.