The Inside Story of the Astros Scandal and a Colorful History of Sign Stealing

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Pub Date 08 Jun 2021 | Archive Date 22 Jun 2021

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The definitive inside story of the cheating scandal that rocked Major League Baseball

By the fall of 2019, most teams around Major League Baseball suspected that the Houston Astros had been stealing signs for several years. The Astros had won the 2017 World Series and made the playoffs the next two seasons. All the while, opponents felt that Houston’s hitters knew what pitches were coming.

In Cheated, award-winning sports reporter and analyst Andy Martino takes readers behind the scenes and into the heart of the events that shocked the baseball world. With inside access to the people directly involved, Martino not only breaks down exactly what happened and when but reveals the fascinating explanations of why it all came about. The nuance and detail ofthe scandal reads like a true sports whodunnit. How did otherwise good people like Astros’ manager A. J. Hinch, bench coach Alex Cora, and veteran leader Carlos Beltrán find themselves on the wrong side of clear ethical lines? And did they even know when those lines had been crossed?

Martino also explores the colorful history of cheating in baseball, from notorious episodes like the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal all the way to the modern steroid era. But the Astros scandal became one of the most significant that the game has ever seen—its fallout ensnaring many other teams, either as victims, alleged cheaters, or both. The Los Angeles Dodgers felt robbed of a World Series title and fended off accusations about their organization. Same for the New York Yankees. The Boston Red Sox were soon under investigation themselves. The New York Mets lost a promising manager before he had ever managed a game. 

With skillful reporting, Andy Martino, who has broken numerous stories about the Astros and sign-stealing in baseball, fills in all the pieces in a riveting investigative narrative. Cheated is an explosive, electrifying read.

The definitive inside story of the cheating scandal that rocked Major League Baseball

By the fall of 2019, most teams around Major League Baseball suspected that the Houston Astros had been stealing...

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Featured Reviews

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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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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