Red Sox used live video to steal signs in 2018
The complete lapse in logic and widespread hypocrisy that has permeated the MLB since news of the Astros sign-stealing in 2017 initially broke continues to march right along.
2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts admitted that the Red Sox used a live video feed to steal signs in 2018. In fact, in his own words, he is aware that every team in the MLB was. When asked if the Red Sox did such a thing, Betts responded:
"Yeah. Everybody was."- Mookie Betts
Betts then tried to downplay the effect of Boston's system.
"This is what I'm trying to say. People are trying to make it like we're cheating. Give us credit. We had a good team. Give us some credit. We had Cy Young winners. We had MVPs. We had Gold Glove winners. We had Silver Sluggers. We had all that. Take that into account."- Mookie Betts
Yeah, Mookie, you and the 2017 Houston Astros too.
The 2017 Astros employed two Cy Young winners (Keuchel and Verlander), two Silver Sluggers (Altuve and Springer) and the 2017 AL MVP (Altuve).
Now let's do a brief dive into Altuve and Betts' MVP seasons. Altuve hit .346 with a .957 OPS, belting 24 home runs and 39 doubles. He finished with a 160 OPS+ and a 160 WRC+. A great season and a deserving MVP.
Betts was even more dominant in 2018. He hit .346 with a 1.078 OPS, hitting 32 home runs and 47 doubles. His 185 WRC+ was obscene. A monstrous season. One of the best in recent history.
Now what stands out between the two? Since winning the MVP, Betts hasn't had a single season where he finishes with an OPS within 151 points of his 2018 total, and even that .927 OPS came in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. His best WRC+ since then was again the COVID-shortened 2020 season, and it was a 144. Betts hit .264 and .269 the last two seasons.
As for Altuve, he has hit over .300 twice since (and hit .298 in 2019). His 160 OPS+ just this season matched his 2017 output, and even if you account for prior history, Altuve had a 155 OPS+ in 2016 when Houston was not cheating. There was not an outlandish jump. His 164 WRC+ in 2022 was a career high, surpassing his 2017 mark.
Hmmm, that's interesting. Altuve has mostly stayed the course and has arguably even topped his MVP season. Betts, while still an all-star caliber player, has never even sniffed the ballpark of his 2018 season, and he has the gall to tell us that their live video didn't make a difference.
The Boston Red Sox have been mostly irrelevant since 2018. They made it to the ALCS in 2021, but missed the playoffs three of the four years. Would somebody remind me who sent Boston home in 2021 again...?
Ah, those pesky, cheatin' Astros. The franchise that has made five straight trips to the ALCS since their initial title in 2017, won three more AL pennants and just won another World Series.
The franchise on a historical tear. The team that has arguably gotten better since the MLB cracked down on sign-stealing.
The Astros stole signs in 2017. We know this. But just as Mookie Betts confirmed (along with Chris Bassit, Joey Votto and Lucas Giolito), they were far from the only team. Only one has remained dominant while other franchises endure the ebbs and flows of baseball.
By all means, boo Houston if you'd wish. They thrive on it. But to paraphrase Mookie Betts words, we are a good team. We have MVPs. We have (future) Cy Youngs. We have Silver Sluggers. We have gold gloves. We have all that. Take that into account. And remember that, next time you chant "We want Houston!"