It’s been well established that the Houston Astros weren’t the only MLB team to use some form of illegal sign-stealing over the last few years, but no other team had been firmly reported to have used a system like their infamous trash can banging.
Former MLB catcher Erik Kratz believes there were at least a couple other teams to use such a scheme, and he’s willing to name one of them.
During an appearance on the YES Network’s “Curtain Call” podcast, Kratz responded to a question about the Astros’ cheating by claiming the Colorado Rockies used a system similar to the Astros’ to steal signs. He also claimed another team who had been to the World Series had done the same thing.
In the case of the Rockies, Kratz said the team used a massage therapy gun to hit a metal bench to relay signs from a television:
I can tell you that a team that has been to the World Series, often, recently, we caught them doing something almost similar.
And I can also tell you, because I don’t really care, I don’t know anybody over there, the Colorado Rockies were doing the exact same thing in 2018, and we caught them, and we played them in the playoffs. You know how many runs they scored in a three-game playoff series in 2018? Not many people watched the NLDS. They scored two runs in the ninth inning of Game 2. They used to take a Theragun and bang it on their metal bench. And they were doing the exact same thing, from the TV.
So, there you go. If you think no one else was doing it, you are wrong. The difference is, the Astros may have taken it a little too far. Maybe a little bit too far. Maybe continued to do it. Or maybe it’s just the fact that they won the World Series and everybody’s pissed about that.
The 2018 Rockies came a game short of winning the National League West, but lost a Game 163 to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kratz had been on the Milwaukee Brewers on that season, which included a sweep of the Rockies in the NLDS.
Kratz also went on to say this:
I’m not saying that it’s right what the Astros did, but I know two other teams that season, I was in the National League, and those two teams didn’t win the World Series, they were doing very, very similar things.
With that extra nugget, it’s not hard to do figure out which other team Kratz is implying to have cheated. The Dodgers are only the NL team to reach the World Series multiple times over the last half-decade, including 2018, and Kratz’ Brewers team was reported to suspect the Dodgers of something shady during the 2018 NLCS, which Los Angeles won in seven games.
While Kratz said the Astros weren’t alone in cheating, he also conceded that the team continued to cheat after being told to stop by MLB and agreed when a podcast host said the team should be stripped of its World Series title. He also said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred “dropped the ball” in only punishing former manager A.J. Hinch and former general manager Jeff Luhnow.
It should be noted Kratz played for the Astros in 2016, but only for a month and a half. Kratz played for nine different teams over the course of his 11-year career, mostly as a back-up catcher.
The Astros were never alone in illegal sign-stealing, but…
In the years since the Astros’ cheating came to light, many of their defenders have argued that while the team admittedly cheated on its way to a 2017 World Series championship, it was only doing what other teams were doing at the time.
Cheating accusations of varying credibility and magnitude have come out over that span, including against Kratz’s own Brewers. The issue was pervasive enough that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred issued a warning to all 30 teams about illegal sign-stealing after finding that the Red Sox used an Apple Watch to do so in 2017.
The difference with this Rockies allegation, though, is that Kratz is claiming the team used an Astros-esque banging scheme rather than something along the lines of what the 2017 Red Sox did (relay signals to the dugout via Apple Watch, then relay that to the hitter) or what the 2018 Red Sox did (use the video room to update pitcher-catcher sign sequences when they differed from pregame scouting). Manfred himself said the latter was ‘far more limited in scope and impact’ than what the Astros did, and that’s probably true for many systems used in video rooms.
So while the Astros weren’t alone in cheating, it appeared that they were the lone team to use a system so effective, and still used it in the postseason (the 2018 Red Sox were found to have stopped cheating during the regular season).
If the Rockies (or the Dodgers) used a banging scheme, well, that’s new information, but doesn’t come from a reliable source. Kratz isn’t the first player to accuse other teams of illegal sign-stealing, and he probably won’t be the last.
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