MLB

From Winning to Cheating, the Houston Astros Are Becoming the MLB’s New England Patriots

Former Houston Astros pitcher Mike Fiers dropped a bombshell this week. According to Fiers, the Houston Astros had used a center-field camera to help steal signs from opposing teams during his time with the team in 2017. The Astros won the World Series that year when they defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Using a camera to get an edge on opponents brings back memories of the New England Patriots’ Spygate scandal, in which the Patriots were caught filming coaches for their signals on the sideline at a New York Jets game. Upon closer inspection, the Astros and the Patriots actually seem to have a lot in common.

Houston has had three straight dominant seasons

Could Astros Manager AJ Hinch become the MLB's version of Bill Belichick?
Could Astros Manager AJ Hinch become the MLB’s version of Bill Belichick? | Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, the New England Patriots have become synonymous with winning. Over the last 18 years, the Patriots have been to the Super Bowl nine times and won six of those championship games. They have also been consistently dominant during the regular season, winning at least 10 games every year since 2003 and winning the AFC East Division every year since 2009.

Houston’s stretch of dominance is far smaller at just three seasons, but it has been a very impressive three-year run. The Astros have won over 100 games and been the American League West champions every year since 2017. The team won 101 regular-season games in 2017, 103 in 2018, and 107 in 2019.

The Astros fell one game of short of winning their second World Series title in three years this season, losing to the Washington Nationals in Game 7 of the World Series finals. But like New England, Houston is consistently in the hunt, winning the championship in 2017 and falling just short of a trip to the World Series with a loss to the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS in 2018.

The Astros seem willing to win at any cost

In a 2015 report released by ESPN’s Outside the Lines, it was alleged that the Patriots had done for more than just recording the Jets sideline on that one occasion. According to the report, New England had a library full of tapes to study on different teams. The team would also send low-level employees into the opposing team’s locker room and hotels to try to steal play sheets and would use “scrambling and jamming” to interfere with the opponents’ radio headsets during the game.

What would an in-depth investigation uncover about the Astros? The team doesn’t really seem to be denying Fiers’ allegations against them, simply stating that they have no comment at this time.

“Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball,” the Astros said in a statement. “It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time.”

The Astros also didn’t have any qualms with making a trade to acquire closer Roberto Osuna from the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018 despite the fact that he was serving a suspension for domestic violence. This isn’t exactly a team with a sterling moral compass.

Will the MLB take action?

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is going to have some big decisions to make this offseason
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is going to have some big decisions to make this offseason | Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Houston Astros organization was already in hot water for a situation that occurred in October between a former team executive and a group of female reporters. The team’s assistant general manager Brandon Taubman allegedly shouted at the women how happy he was that the team had acquired Roberto Osuna, seemingly insinuating how he didn’t care about the closer’s past history with domestic violence.

Like the New England Patriots, the Houston Astros are a well-run team that is built to last. And also like the Patriots, they could wind up being a serious headache for the league’s commissioner. How seriously the MLB investigates and punishes the Astros for these alleged incidents could set the tone for Houston’s behavior in the MLB for years to come.