As Major League Baseball’s investigation into sign-stealing allegations against the Houston Astros expand and develop, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the schemes to steal opponents’ pitch signs with electronic technology were devised and suggested at higher levels of the team’s organization.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich were among those who received an email from an Astros front-office executive encouraging team scouts to use binoculars and cameras to get signs from the opposing dugout. While binoculars would be viewed as a standard scouting tool that would be allowed, the use of cameras is a possible violation of MLB rules implemented in 2017 prohibiting outside technology to steal signs.
While The Athletic’s report did not identify the Astros executive by name, citing a source’s condition that the email’s sender and recipient not be named, ESPN’s Jeff Passan named Kevin Goldstein as the person who sent the message. Goldstein is currently a special assistant to Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow.
“One thing in specific we are looking for is picking up signs coming out of the dugout,” an excerpt from the email, read via The Athletic. “What we are looking for is how much we can see, how we would log things, if we need cameras/binoculars, etc. So go to game, see what you can (or can’t) do and report back your findings.”
Goldstein’s name might be familiar to many baseball fans from his work for Baseball Prospectus. Before joining the Astros front office in 2012 as Pro Scouting Coordinator, Goldstein was a national writer for BP specializing in minor league scouting and player development. He also wrote for ESPN.com and Baseball America, and was a very popular Twitter follow for his fun, candid analysis and commentary.
Astros using cameras to steal signs, a breakdown pic.twitter.com/rncm6qzXxw
— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) November 12, 2019
Twitter user @Jomboy_ has compiled several video clips with key sound that illustrates how the Astros got opponents’ signs with the help of cameras, which were then relayed to staffers and signaled to Astros hitters while batting by banging on trash cans in the dugout tunnel.
In his farewell column for Baseball Prospectus, written in August 2012, Goldstein explained that he always felt more comfortable gathering information and talking to scouts and executives, rather than writing articles based on what he compiled.
“I loved writing here, but I was never a writer. I never enjoyed the actual process of writing. It always was a chore for me. I loved gathering information. I loved talking to scouts and agents and various front office officials and trying to tell the readers everything I learned. Writing was the medium I was stuck with, so here I am. I’ve always felt bad for my editors, scuffling to make my words something decipherable.”
As Passan explains in his piece, the pro scouting department that Goldstein originally headed has largely been shuttered in favor of analytics-driven information gathering. Most of the scouting work that is currently done incorporates cameras and video, tools it now appears were allegedly used for more than player evaluation and advance scouting.
When contacted by Passan, Goldstein declined to comment. The front office’s involvement in Houston’s alleged sign-stealing scheme would set it apart from a similar strategy utilized by the Boston Red Sox in 2017 with cameras, Apple Watches, and hand-signals. MLB’s investigation found that no Boston front-office staff nor ownership was involved or knew of the practice.