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Report: Houston Astros front office laid groundwork for sign-stealing scheme

People at Astros FanFest
People at Astros FanFest (Rose-Ann Aragon/KPRC 2)

The Houston Astros have been under fire since the controversial sign-stealing scheme came to light. A new report offers insight into the origins of the scheme. On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the sign-stealing ploy originated in the team’s front office.

According the WSJ, an intern in the organization introduced a program named “Codebreaker” back in 2016, the year before the Astros won the World Series. The sign-stealing system was subsequently used throughout the 2017 season and during part of the 2018 season.

Here’s how the system operated: Staffers would watch a game, log a catcher’s signs into a spreadsheet and “Codebreaker” would determine how the signs related to different pitches, ESPN explained. Once decoded, the information was passed to the hitter by a baserunner via an intermediary.

Eventually, Astros players tweaked the system. They would bang on a trash can to warn hitters about the coming pitch, ESPN explained.

According to WSJ, former general manager Jeff Luhnow told MLB investigators he remembered the intern’s power point on “Codebreaker” but said he thought it would be used to analyze past games.

The former intern, Derek Vioga, now works as the team’s senior manager of team operations, ESPN added.