Day 6

A fan checked every pitch in the Astros' sign-stealing scandal and says their World Series title is tainted

Tony Adams is a Houston Astros fan who has watched every pitch at every home game in the Astros' 2017 sign-stealing season. He says the team definitely cheated, but that it may not have helped them win.

'I was devastated that my team had done that, particularly the year that they won the World Series'

Houston's George Springer (4) is greeted at home plate by Carlos Correa after his two-run homer in the second inning of the Astros' 5-1 win in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. Both players were involved in the sign stealing scandal that season. (David J. Phillip/The Associated Press)
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As apologies go, it wasn't a winner.

"Our opinion is that this didn't impact the game. We had a good team. We won the World Series. And we'll leave it at that," Houston Astros owner Jim Crane told the media on Thursday.

The Astros made their first public apology for stealing signs during their 2017 World Series championship season and again in 2018.

After a Major League Baseball (MLB) investigation, the Astros were fined $5 million, the maximum allowed under MLB rules, and the team's General Manager and Field Manager have both since been fired. 

For Astros fan Tony Adams, the poor apology wasn't the big issue.

I really wanted to know what happened and who was involved and for how long it went on.- Tony Adams, Astros fan and web developer

"I'm actually more interested in knowing what happened than the Astros apologizing for it," said Adams.

Since the scandal first broke in November, Adams has done his own investigation to find out who was involved and how long the cheating had been going on.

Sign-stealing scandal

In November, The Athletic reported that the Astros had been using a video feed from a center field camera at home games to steal pitching signs from the opposing catcher. 

The upcoming pitches were then signalled to Astros batters by someone banging on a trash can in the Astros dugout. Typically, off-speed pitches were signalled by a bang, including change-ups and breaking balls. Fastballs had no signal.

Knowing what pitch is coming can help batters prepare because they can anticipate the speed or location of the pitch.

Adams told Day 6 host Brent Bambury that he was disappointed by the scandal when the story broke. 

"The videos came out, it was very obvious that they did it. You could hear the banging. There was no denying it," he said.

Former Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch, seen above, and general manager Jeff Luhnow were fired Jan. 13, 2020, amid the fallout of a MLB investigation that determined the club was stealing signs in the 2017 and 2018 seasons. (David Zalubowski/The Associated Press)

"I was devastated that my team had done that, particularly the year that they won the World Series," Adams explained.

"I really wanted to know what happened and who was involved and for how long it went on," said Adams. "And we weren't really getting any information from anybody else."

So Adams, who is also a web developer, went to work documenting every pitch thrown to the Astros at their home games. 

How he collected data

Adams created an app that he was able to sync up with data provided by MLB.

"[The league has] a huge data set, including a timestamp for each pitch, which allowed me to take that timestamp and sync it up with the videos that I was able to get from YouTube," Adams explained.

Using his app, Adams was then able to jump from pitch to pitch, listening for a bang before every pitch.

"I didn't have to watch the entire game. I could just watch that ten to twelve seconds before each pitch," he said.

That still meant watching 8,274 pitches. Adams says the project took him approximately 30 hours.

Alex Bregman celebrates his 7th-inning run as the Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-12 in Game 5 of the 2017 World Series. Bregman has now apologized for being a part of the Astros sign stealing scandal. (Christian Peterson/Getty Images)

He also synced the video with a spectrogram, so that the bangs were also noted by audio amplification.

His website links to every home game he was able to watch, and notes every pitch and every bang. In total he counted 1,143 bangs that season.

That infamous game against the Blue Jays

 On Aug. 4, 2017, the Toronto Blue Jays started a series against the Astros. In the first game Adams counted 54 bangs — the most recorded that season.

The Astros won 16-7.

It was unfair what the Astros did to all the Jays pitchers that day and the Blue Jays in general.- Tony Adams

This week, former Blue Jays pitcher Mike Bolsinger sued the Astros over the sign-stealing scandal.

In the Aug. 4 game, Bolsinger came on in the 4th inning, gave up 4 earned runs and never pitched for the Jays — or in the major leagues — again. He says the Astros cut short his career because of their sign stealing.

Adams counted 12 bangs among the 29 pitches Bolsinger threw that game. But he's not convinced that the cheating ended the pitcher's career.

In a game at Houston on Aug. 4, 2017, Mike Bolsinger, left, allowed four earned runs in one-third of an inning during a 16-7 loss. On Feb. 11, 2020, Bolsinger sued the Astros over the sign stealing scandal, saying that game ended his career. (Eric Christian Smith/The Associated Press)

"He was a 29 year old pitcher who had been up and down quite a bit. And it's difficult to say," said Adams.

"Obviously, it was unfair what the Astros did to him. It was unfair what the Astros did to all the Jays pitchers that day and the Blue Jays in general."

The 'tainted' World Series win

Adams says it's hard to know how much the sign stealing affected the Astros' winning season, noting that there is no evidence that the sign stealing helped them win and that they often had some of the signs wrong, to the detriment of their batters.

"This team was very talented. They were one of the favourites to go to the World Series regardless. And I honestly think that they could have done it without the cheating," said Adams.

"But one of the things that they've taken from us is we'll never know." 

"You know, the reality is this World Series that we have is not the same as the other teams. It is tainted. It does have an asterisk. And we just have to deal with that."


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