The Houston Astros are clean as the proverbial whistle in response to accusations that during a 7-0 loss to the New York Yankees, the team was whistling from the dugout to signal pitches, Major League Baseball has ruled.
Houston lost the first game of the American League Championship Series, but rebounded to win the next three.
However, after the first game in the series, the main topic of discussion was not pitching or hitting, but whistling.
The accusation was simple: The Astros were allegedly using whistles and other noises as a way to signal to batters which pitches were coming. Batters who know whether a pitcher is sending a fastball or curveball their way have the opportunity to prepare, and stand a better chance of getting a hit.
That’s why stealing signs has been a part of baseball skullduggery for decades.
However, according to the New York Post, the Yankees accused the Astros of going a step too far by using a whistle during Game 1 on Oct. 12. League officials dismissed that, even though the Post quoted an unnamed source as saying that other teams believe the tactic is often employed by the Astros at home games.
The subject came up at a media event Thursday, and Astros manager AJ Hinch was quick to dismiss it.
“We talked about this the other day. And in reality it’s a joke. But Major League Baseball does a lot to ensure the fairness of the game. There’s people everywhere,” he said, referring to security staffers.
“And then when I get contacted about some questions about whistling, it made me laugh because it’s ridiculous. And had I known that it would take something like that to set off the Yankees or any other team, we would have practiced it in spring training. It apparently works, even when it doesn’t happen,” Hinch said, according to ESPN.
Hinch said the accusation also lacked proof.
“The game in question, we got three hits and no runs,” Hinch said. “And so nobody heard it. You guys have audio, video, people in places, and nothing — and there’s no evidence of anything.”
Hinch said the team will be vigilant for signs of which pitch is coming, but is doing nothing underhanded.
“So, to the Yankees, there’s nothing bad going on,” he said.
“Pitch tipping is a little bit of a different story. If you don’t want us to know the pitch is coming, don’t do something that demonstrates what pitch you’re going to pitch or what you’re going to throw. But they’re doing the same thing.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone called the whistling accusation a non-issue, but said the question of how communication takes place during a game should be investigated.
“There’s boundaries,” Boone told reporters. “Yeah, we could have a conversation for days on that. So, yeah, there’s boundaries. There’s things you’re not allowed to do and things that are perfectly within the context of the game.”
Houston pitcher Justin Verlander said pervasive technology has not tainted the game.
“I think MLB has done an incredible job this year,” Verlander said. “There’s been someone in the video room every game of the season. Somebody is there full time. You’re not allowed to have a live feed anywhere in the stadium that the players have access to. They check all that. I think that’s been an incredible step forward for MLB to go against the trend of all this technology that’s out there.”
However, he noted, the suspicion that someone has found a way to break the rules is eternal.
“They did what I think was the best thing possible to resolve whatever issue, paranoia teams have,” Verlander said. “Obviously it didn’t resolve the paranoia — it’s still out there for every team.”
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