Of course it was impossible to believe that the Houston Astros electronically stole signs only at home, only in 2017, and only with limited impact. But with MLB’s investigation concluded, punishments levied, and timing having its way of moving us on, I wasn’t sure we’d ever get that much more on the scope of the Astros’ cheating.
EXCLUSIVE: A January letter from Rob Manfred to Jeff Luhnow reveals the Astros "dark arts" and "Codebreaker" — the operation behind the Astros' sign-stealing scandal.https://t.co/wrh3EJCICy
— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) February 7, 2020
Read it. Just read it.
Among the bombshell revelations:
- Contrary to widespread belief, it was not just a player or coach-led process to try to steal signs, and instead the whole thing started as an algorithmic project in the front office in the fall of 2016.
- The front office had a group that would be logging and decoding signs in real-time using video of the game, and then would relay the signs – through “intermediaries” – to runners on second base, who could then relay the signs to batters. (Players then took things to the next level with the trash-can banging.)
- The system was being used both at home and on the road.
- Per the WSJ investigation, Tom Koch-Weser, then the Astros’ director of advance information, sent GM Jeff Luhnow emails in 2017 that referenced “the system” and “our dark arts, sign-stealing department.”
- An eye-popping section: “In October 2018, Luhnow met with Koch-Weser to discuss a potential contract extension. In preparation, Koch-Weser outlined his arguments for an extension in a Slack post that included the term ‘dark arts.’ He wrote, in part: ‘Lastly, I know the secrets that made us a championship team, some of which he[’]d definitely feel a lot safer if they were kept in-house.'”
- More people in the front office somehow escaped deeper punishment by MLB because … Luhnow claimed he didn’t really know what was happening? Ultimately, Luhnow was suspended by MLB for one year, and then fired by the Astros.
- I have no idea why so much of this was omitted from MLB’s report.
Given how deeply the process was embedded into what the front office was trying to do – decode and steal and relay signs in real-time during games using front office personnel – I don’t know how you could possibly trust any of the Astros’ results in 2017 and 2018. I also don’t know how you couldn’t immediately presume than any of their other surprising successes (huge jumps in spin rate and velocity for pitchers among them) aren’t somehow shrouded in a permanent cloud of suspicion.
I would still be so very pissed if I were a player on another team.
If and when a bunch of Astros players mysteriously underperform this year, I think we’re all gonna know what we know.