Cover Image: Cheated


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Member Reviews

As a baseball fan I saw this title and figured I’d give it a shot. This book was easy to read and had tons of background information that the normal person would not know. This book is great insight to some of the sordid aspects of baseball. As a fan I found some of this information disturbing but necessary to learn about. Overall I enjoyed the book and would recommend it.
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Ever since the early days of baseball, there have been those who seek to gain a competitive advantage through various forms of chicanery. And while there are certainly rules regarding the way in which the game is played and the conduct maintained while playing it, players have always pushed the envelope, seeking to come as close to the line as possible … and sometimes crossing it.

The largest cheating scandal of the past few years involved the Houston Astros, who put together an elaborate scheme combining high- and low-tech techniques to steal the signs of their opponents and gain an advantage – an advantage that took them all the way to a World Series championship before later revelations brought the whole thing tumbling down.

Andy Martino’s new book “Cheated: The Inside Story of the Astros Scandal and a Colorful History of Sign Stealing” takes the reader inside that scheme, introduces us to the primary figures in its execution and discusses its aftermath. It also takes a trip through the history of sign stealing, a form of gamesmanship that has always been a part of the sport even as it has invited controversy along the way.

It’s a well-reported and well-written book, one that details the extent of the Astros’ sins while also showing that while this recent scandal might be the one most prominent in our memories, it is far from the only time that a team has crossed a line in its efforts to gain a better understanding of (and advantage over) their opponents.

Sign stealing has been a part of baseball since its inception. Generations of players have sought to gain whatever edge they can through figuring out a way to inform their hitters about what pitch is going to be thrown. And the general attitude of those in the game has always been that if you can crack the code, you’re welcome to the fruits of your labors. However, while doing so with your eyes and your wits is viewed as gamesmanship, the use of technological assistance is forbidden.

Strangely, in a profession packed with wildly, almost pathologically competitive individuals, it turns out that just telling people not to do something isn’t enough of a disincentive if they think it will win them ballgames. And it has won some big ones.

The primary focus in “Cheated” is the Astros scandal, of course. And Martino does a fantastic job of really getting granular with regard to how the scheme was hatched, how it evolved and how the primary players engaged with it.

In brief, it worked like this: team operatives would study video of the game in real time, seeking to decipher the signs of the opposition. Once that was achieved, they could determine which pitch was coming. That information was then conveyed to the player at the plate via noise – they used a number of methods, but the most popular seemed to be simply banging on a plastic trashcan. Armed with the knowledge of what was coming, the batter could adjust accordingly. Again, an ingenious marriage of high-tech and low.

Veteran player Carlos Beltran and bench coach Alex Cora are generally considered the ringleaders; many (but not all) players took advantage to varying extents. Manager A.J. Hinch was aware but disapproving; GM Jeff Luhnow attempted to claim a degree of ignorance. All of it played out on the grand stage, with alleged cheaters and victims both coming to the forefront and altering the perception of the game.

It’s all fascinating stuff, rendered all the more engaging by the context that Martino constructs. He reaches back through the history of the game and pulls examples of technologically-assisted sign-stealing from the past. Early on, the Phillies had a scheme that involved a bench player with opera glasses, a modified telegraph and a buzzer buried beneath the third base coach’s box – an elegant, innovative and totally unethical plan.

And of course, the previous champion as far as sign-stealing scandals, the decades-later revelation that 1951’s legendary “Shot Heard Round the World” hit by New York Giant Bobby Thompson off Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca – a home run that would send the Giants to the World Series – was influenced by the fact that Thompson likely knew what was coming. The Giants had a setup in their home park that involved a center-field telescope and a particular scoreboard light.

But it is the Astros who sit at the center of “Cheated.”

Martino gets really granular here, relying on a significant depth of reportage. He meticulously reconstructs events while also finding ways to delve into the mindsets of the primary figures involved. It wonderfully captures the slippery slope nature of the scandal, the ethical erosion gradual in a way that allowed the main players not to grasp the full nature of their offense – or at the very least, allowed them to delude themselves with a variety of excuses.

There are a lot of gray areas in the rules of baseball, both written and unwritten. “Cheated” is a compelling look at what can happen to a team when they wade into the murky middle and allow their competitiveness to push them over the line. The Houston Astros cheated and their 2017 title will be forever tainted because of that; thanks to the work of Andy Martino and others like him, we’ve all gotten a fuller, more detailed picture of just how that came to pass.
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This was a very interesting look at cheating in the history of baseball and how this can full circle with the Astros. I was intrigued the whole time I was reading.
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Cheated is a book that the die hard baseball fan will love. It's full of behind the scenes information that give a detailed version of the cheating scandal that rocked MLB in 2019-20. It seeks to answer the question of "How did the Astros ever get in that situation and how did they get caught?"  
Martino does a great job of presenting the story and the persons involved in the story. Tracing the roots of stealing signs all the way back to the early days of the game, we discover the reality that there have always been players, teams, and managers willing to push the boundary of the rules of the game.
The story is engaging and the information is thrilling. I highly recommend this book for those who love the great American past time!
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There were rumors that the Dodgers were robbed of their 2017 World Series, that the Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish humiliations were results of being bushwhacked by electronic cheating. My Dodgers lost that series and I resisted looking for excuses to deny my team lost to a better opponent. In the football world, as a Patriots fan I constantly heard whining about New England only winning by playing dirty football and reacted with "yeah, yeah." With this in mind I was skeptical and hesitant to jump on the fantastical Astro-cheater bandwagon.  

Those S.O.B.'s did it! In Andy Martino's "Cheated" the entire case is fleshed out. We get the whole history of sign stealing from the 1890's until now. This scandal played out daily in the newspapers and radio talk shows but "Cheated" is not just a stretched-out magazine article, it breaks down how baseball got here and what has and has not been proven. It does not toss up one dimensional evil villains, it shows men who start off only trying to get a competitive edge, progress believing "everybody else is doing it,"  and finding themselves trying to defend themselves against a sports world booing them mercilessly. Whatever the initial intentions, games and championships were compromised and opponents suffered.

This is definitely a must-read for any baseball fan outside the Houston area. Cue James Earl Jones sermonizing on the innocence of baseball. Dissolve that picture and the screen is broken down into 1000 second per frame codebreaker technology... where, as Andy Martino says, the computer monitor tells us we can no longer trust what we are watching. 

I thank Doubleday Books, NetGalley, and Andy Martino for an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review. #Cheated #NetGalley #Doubleday
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Many are aware of the Astros cheating scandal from 2017, the year they were crowned world series champions. For those who aren't aware, the Houston Astros were found to be using technological instruments to get an advantage on their opponents by using video and communication technology to steal signs from the catcher as he's relaying them to his pitcher, which unlike using your eyes, is against the rules of Major League Baseball. 

Cheated chronicles the scandal in 2017 as well as documents the history of sign stealing, both legal and illegal, dating as far back as the 1900 season and the ways in which it was done. 

The majority of the book, however, details the investigations into the Astros, the Red Sox, and Yankees, who were each accused of illegal sign stealing in 2017-2019. Martino demonstrates how MLB Commissioner Bud Selig didn't put much effort in to investigating the sign stealing complaints. Martino shows how Selig, whose own reputation had been tarnished by his inaction during the steroids era, was too busy trying to redeem his own reputation by completely ruining the reputation of known performance enhancing drug user Alex Rodriguez. Current commissioner Rob Manfred also angered players and fans by not punishing players for their respective roles in the controversy and cheapening the importance of winning the world series by referring to the trophy as "a piece of metal."

Martino has clearly done his research here as this is very well detailed. He writes in a way that isn't an information dump and makes his main subjects human, even the villains. It also serves as a cautionary tale of what can happen when a team decides to place such an emphasis on winning that they are willing to break the rules to do so. If you're a baseball fan, I would highly recommend reading this fascinating book. 

My appreciation to Doubleday, Andy Martino, and NetGalley for gifting me a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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What makes this book different from all others? And why should anyone care?

Cheated is an incredibly well sourced and well written tale of the Astros cheating scandal in 2017. The Astros won the World Series that year, their first in franchise history. What should've been a feel good story for the city and the team was overshadowed by a massive sign stealing operation that gave the Astros hitters a competitive advantage.

Martino does a great job chronicling the history of sign stealing throughout major league baseball.  This was fascinating to me, as sign stealing has evolved in the technology age from a legal practice that was really only possible by a man on second base, to an entire media operation designed to steal and communicate signs. The book did bog down at parts when Martino was introducing and telling the story of the various characters involved, and we didn't really dive into the actual cheating scandal until about halfway through the book, but the backstory of the teams, players, managers, and office execs enriched the reading experience overall.

While I was familiar with the scandal, there is enough detailed and new information in the book for it to be totally worth the read. I almost feel like this story has not been reported on enough, as the COVID pandemic postponed the 2020 baseball season and dominated the news, Any baseball or sports fan will love this inside look at one of the biggest scandals in sports history.

I was given a free ebook copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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No matter how closely one follows Major League Baseball, one has heard about the recent cheating scandal involving the Houston Astros and their use of technology in order to steal signs from the catcher to the pitcher. The cheating then went to various methods to communicate the pitch that would be coming to the batter, the most publicized of which was banging a trash can to tell the batter about the next pitch. This book about the scandal and also the history of sign-stealing in baseball is an excellent look into the characters and multiple angle of this story.

While the plot of the book is about the Astros and sign-stealing, there is some interesting side stories.  One I found particularly interesting was about the commissioner's office and why they – both Bud Selig and Rob Manfred – weren't so invested into investigating this heavily until well after the Astros used this scheme to win a World Series in 2017 and two American League pennants in three years. That was, in author Andy Martino's words, because Selig was more interested in bringing down Alex Rodriguez to clean up Selig's unkind legacy on steroids and then when Manfred took over, he put out rules to let teams know that violations of the rules to use electronic method to steal signals would not be tolerated.  He believed that self-policing with these rules would work – as we saw, it did not.

The book also nicely covers older cheating events, from the early 20th century to the famous 1951 playoff game between the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.  He makes a great comparison of Ralph Branca, the Dodgers pitcher whose pitch to Bobby Thompson was signaled before Thompson hit the legendary homer, to players who also felt cheated out of important wins like Clayton Kershaw and Aaron Judge. Passages like this make the book very enjoyable for not only the Astros sign-stealing.

But, as one might expect from the title, Martino does his best work when writing about the main people in the cheating scandal – Astros manager A.J. Hinch, coach Alex Cora (who later managed the Boston Red Sox to the World Series title in 2018 but was later fired from that team for his role in the Astros scandal) and Carlos Beltran, who was a player in the last year of his 20 year career with the 2017 Astros (who, like Cora, also lost a managerial job over the scandal when he was fired by the New York Mets just months after being hired). Their roles were just a part of the story that brings out the investigative side of Martino extremely well.  Not only does he investigate and report on several different aspects of the scandal, he writes about this much like an espionage novel or an episode of investigative television shows with all the twists and turns, various accusations thrown out by so many people and eventually the illegal activity being exposed and those punished will get their just deserts. Or, in the case of that last statement, the punishment merited to be correct by the commissioner as many in the game felt that the Astros deserved more.  Even this aspect is covered in the book in the epilogue with a segment on the harsh treatment the Astros received during spring training in 2020.

After reading several of the books that came out soon after the 2017 Astros won the World Series praising how they made tearing a team down to the core and rebuilding with analytics the model of how to win a championship, this is a completely different approach to that Houston championship and one that should be read by any baseball fan.  

I wish to thank Doubleday for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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When I started this book I was not expecting to be so conflicted about the cheating going on in Major League Baseball.  I was also not expecting so many Mets and former Mets to somehow be involved in this story.  It seems easy - if you are relaying signs to the players on your team using trash cans or buzzers - you're in the wrong and should be punished.  But then I realized just how much sign stealing is really going on in the game - and if you as a player crack the code - where is the line? Do you share with your teammates? Use it only for yourself? Keep it to yourself completely? A lot of that is unraveled in this book with how it started for some of the players involved and how it expanded to the big controversy with the Astros in more recent years.  In addition to mentioning the recent cheating - it goes back historically - and it has pretty much been going on since the dawn of time.  This was definitely an eye opening book and I think that doing it in the way the Astros did was above and beyond for the love of the game - but I haven't been able to figure out where exactly I draw the line.  Maybe after reading it will be a bit clearer for you, or maybe not!

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated.
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