An in-depth and multiperspectival look at the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal and its roots in the culture of baseball fandom.
In 2017 the Houston Astros won their first World Series title, a particularly uplifting victory for the city following Hurricane Harvey. But two years later, the feel-good energy was gone after The Athletic revealed that the Astros had stolen signs from opposing catchers during their championship season, perhaps even during the playoffs and World Series. Their methods were at once high-tech and crude: staff took video of opponents’ pitching signals and transmitted the footage in real time to the Astros’ dugout, where players banged on trash cans to signal to their teammates at bat which pitches were coming their way. Wry observers labeled them the Asterisks, pointing to the title that no longer seemed so earned.
Astros and Asterisks examines the scandal from historical, journalistic, legal, ethical, and cultural perspectives. Authors delve into the Astros’ winning-above-all attitude, cultivated by a former McKinsey consultant; the significance of hiring a pitcher recently suspended for domestic abuse; the career-ending effects of the Astros’ transgression on opposing players; and the ethically fraught choices necessary to participate in sign-stealing. Ultimately, it links the Astros’ choices to the sporting world’s obsession with analytics. What emerges is a sobering tale about the impact of new technology on a game whose romanticized image feels increasingly incongruous with its reality in the era of big data and video.