The “Code breaking” Astros

Liam Carr, Staff Reporter

Many professional sports teams have tried the “tanking” method. The tanking method is when a team struggles to win and decides it might be best to start over. They bench their best players, and purposely lose a majority of the games so they have the possibility of having the first pick of the draft the next year and then build around a young star. Many teams have tried this but it does not always succeed, but for the Astros, however, it seemed like they pulled off one of the greatest tanking and recovering stories ever.

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Carlos Correa and George Springer celebrate in the outfield against the Orioles in 2018, a year they cheated in.

The Astros were not a contestant for the World Series so they decided to tank around the beginning of the 2010 season. They finished last place in their division in 2011, 2012, and in 2013. This gave them three straight years of being awarded the first-round pick of the MLB draft. In 2011 they picked George Springer (with the 11th player in the first round). In 2012 they picked Carlos Correa, in 2013 Mark Appel, and in 2014 they drafted Brady Aiken. In 2015 the Astros finished second place in their division, and in 2017, the Astros finished in first place in their division and held one of the best records in the MLB (Major League Baseball). Unbeknownst to the world, the Houston Astros accomplished this by ways of cheating.

It all started with a newly recruited intern who used an Excel program which he modified, in 2016. The program was called “Codebreaker” and was often referred to as “Dark Arts” among the coaches and players. It worked by either interns or analytics watching live feed games and then writing down catchers signals, followed by what pitch was thrown. Then at the beginning of the 2017 season, the Astros used a live feed camera from the replay room to decode and signal pitches to the bench. In June of 2017, a group of players wanted an improvement with “Codebreaker,” thus creating the notorious trash-can-banging operation. An Astros employee would sit in a room adjacent to the dugout, watching the monitor that was hooked up to the camera in the outfield. When he saw a slider or another type of pitch that the Astros highlighted for that game, he would then bang a bat on a trash can loud enough to alert the player about to swing.

The Astros went on to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series that season. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that shows the Astros cheated during the World Series games. The next season the Astros finished first place in their division. During the AL West Championship, the Cleveland Indians spotted an Astros employee taking pictures of their dugout. The Indians warned the Boston Red Sox (the team the Astros would face in the AL championship) about the Astros suspected cheating. The Astros would lose to the Red Sox, but during the season the Astros relocated the replay review room closer to the dugout. The next season, the Astros had the best season yet, with a record of 107-55. The Astros made it to the World Series, they would go against the Washington Nationals, who were being warned about the possibility of the Astros stealing signals. Many Nationals players confirmed that they were being told from numerous baseball players around the league, that the Astros could be cheating, so the Nationals created new signals and made more signals for the catcher. The Nationals ended up pulling off the upset and beat the cheating Astros. Then shortly after the season was over, a former pitcher for the Astros, Mike Fiers, said that they did cheat during the 2017 season and in the World Series.

“I am still going to be an Astros fan, I know what they did was wrong but it’s not going to stop me from liking them,” fifth-grader Nolan Long said.

The Astros have been fined five million dollars, the largest fine the MLB can issue. They lost both their first and second-round picks of 2020 and 2021, and GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch have been suspended for a year, but the Astros decided to part ways with them. Although the Astros punishments are definitely harsh, many players not just in MLB but in the NFL and NBA do not think it is enough.

“In the Olympics, if players cheat they can’t have a gold medal. But they still have a World Series title,” Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish said in an interview with the public.

“It’s sad for baseball. It’s tough. They cheated. I don’t agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. I lost some respect for some guys,” Angels outfielder Mike Trout said in an interview with the public.

“I know if someone cheated me out of winning the title and I found out about it I would be irate!” Lebron James said on his twitter.

The five million dollars seems like a small piece compared to the 300 hundred million they made in 2018. The loss of the first two rounds of the draft for the next two years could damage the Astros significantly down the road. The players, who partook the most in the cheating scandal were all granted immunity for in exchange for full cooperation with the investigation.

“It was the players who benefited and I believe that it was the players who carried it on so they should be the ones being punished the most,” seventh-grader Abe Lang said.

During the 2017 season, the Red Sox were caught cheating by using Apple Watches.

“I saw a guy say that if the MLB did an investigation throughout the whole league, there would be multiple teams found guilty of cheating,” seventh-grader Hudon Long said.

So far in MLB’s spring training, the Astros have been hit seven times by a pitch (the most out of any teams). Some MLB players around the league have said that some of the Astros “need a beating.” At the spring games, the Astros have been booed throughout games and hassled nonstop by jeering fans. The only way for the Astros to shut them up is to have a great season of hitting without using the “Codebreaker.”