The recent report concerning Carlos Beltran‘s involvement in the Astros sign stealing scandal could affect the Yankees.
As time goes by, we’re learning more and more about how the Astros sign stealing scheme unfolded and just who were the main culprits behind it. We already know that to at least some degree, the scheme was initiated by the front office, which makes former GM Jeff Luhnow look pretty bad. But now Carlos Beltran’s involvement has come to the forefront.
A report by The Athletic laid out how heavily responsible Beltran was for the scheme. As the senior member of the clubhouse, he enjoyed a position of authority that few other players were willing to challenge. And even if they did challenge him, it didn’t go anywhere.
The story mentioned that Brian McCann had approached Beltran at one point and asked him to stop the sign stealing. One member of the 2017 team said Beltran ignored it and “steamrolled” everyone, to the point that even manager AJ Hinch was afraid to challenge Beltran for fear of losing credibility in the clubhouse.
Teammates described Beltran as the dominant figure in the building. When the Astros brought him aboard, I noted that one of the positives would be his clubhouse presence and leadership. Turns out I was wrong — that clubhouse presence was actually a negative.
And his on-field performance was a negative, too. His ERA+ of 81 in 2017 indicated he was 19 percent below league average at the plate. So not only was he bad on offense, but he also was a major contributor to what increasingly looks to have been a toxic culture within the organization at the time. That’s $16 million the Astros would probably like to have back.
How the Yankees Factor In
According to The Athletic’s report, Beltran told the Astros that their sign stealing methods were “behind the times,” which of course means his sign stealing involvement didn’t begin in Houston. Not coincidentally, Beltran played for the Yankees from 2014 through 2016, then spent the last couple months of 2016 with the Rangers before coming to Houston. He returned to the Yankees as a special adviser shortly after retiring.
The report noted that the Yankees had been using their video replay room to decode signs as far back as 2015. Other teams were known to have been doing the same thing. The Yankees and Red Sox had a dust-up about sign stealing as well, so it’s not hard to fathom that it was happening there too.
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Besides, are we really to believe Beltran came to Houston and just decided to start stealing signs? The fact that he told the Astros they were behind the times is a clear indication that he was well acquainted with the process of electronic sign stealing. He’d just spent most of three years with the Yankees and then returned as an adviser after one year in Houston.
There’s no way he only engaged in illegal sign stealing while with the Astros, even though the league might prefer that we believe that. He even reportedly told a Yankees official that the Astros weren’t doing anything that wasn’t being done by other teams.
There’s also a really fine line that’s been drawn here. The “Codebreaker” algorithm the Astros front office came up with was actually legal as far as being used on games that had already been completed. It just wasn’t supposed to be used during games. It was Beltran and Alex Cora who decided to bypass Codebreaker and just decode signs themselves during games using the monitor, according to The Athletic.
To me, that distinction seems silly. Whether you’re using a camera to steal signs during a game or after a game doesn’t seem to make a huge difference — you’re still using cameras to steal signs. But apparently the league is fine with decoding signs after the fact and then using that knowledge during the next game.
Everything that’s come out so far continues to point to electronic sign stealing being a widespread problem across the league. Everyone believed everyone else was doing it, perhaps just to varying degrees. That doesn’t absolve the Astros for the trash can banging, but it does make their method look much less egregious compared to what other teams were doing.
It seems like only a matter of time before it’s confirmed the Yankees, and several others, were breaking the rules in some capacity. The digging that’s being done by The Athletic and other media outlets is taking us farther and farther down this rabbit hole that Commissioner Rob Manfred obviously doesn’t want us to go.