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The Houston Astros sign stealing scandal resulted from a series of rule violations by members of the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball who usedThe Houston Astros sign stealing scandal resulted from a series of rule violations by members of the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball who used technology to steal signs of opposing teams during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. For years, some individuals on other teams had suspected the Astros of stealing signs, but there was no public reporting on the subject until November 2019, when reporters Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich at The Athletic published an article detailing the team's activities. Mike Fiers, a pitcher who played for the Astros in 2017, told The Athletic that the organization used a video camera in the center field seats to film the opposing catcher's signals to the pitcher regarding the next pitch. Astros players or team staffers watching the live camera feed behind the dugout used various audio cues, such as banging on a trash can, to signal to the batter what type of pitch was coming next. MLB investigated the allegations and confirmed in January 2020 that the Astros illegally used a camera system to steal signs during the 2017 regular season and postseason, during which they won the World Series, as well as in part of the 2018 season. MLB found no evidence of illicit sign stealing in the 2019 season, in which the Astros advanced to the World Series, but lost in seven games to the Washington Nationals. As a result, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and field manager A. J. Hinch were suspended for the entire 2020 season for failing to prevent the rule violations. The Astros were fined the maximum allowable $5 million and forfeited their first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts. No players were punished because they had been given immunity by MLB in exchange for their cooperation. The Astros subsequently fired both Luhnow and Hinch on the day their suspensions were announced. MLB's investigation also determined that Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora helped mastermind the Astros' sign stealing while serving as Hinch's bench coach in 2017. The Red Sox and Cora mutually parted ways the following day and MLB suspended him through the 2020 postseason, although the Red Sox rehired Cora after his suspension ended. Carlos Beltrán was the only Astros player from 2017 who was specifically named in the report; he had been hired to manage the New York Mets in November 2019 but parted ways with the team after the results of MLB's investigation were announced. The sanctions against the Astros were the most severe that MLB has ever issued against a member club, and are among the most severe sanctions for in-game misconduct in baseball history. A Wall Street Journal article published a few weeks after the MLB report described previously unknown details about the sign stealing operation and reported that it originated during the 2016 season, a broader scope than reported by MLB. After the scandal broke, players on the 2017 Astros apologized to varying degrees. The team's actions were heavily criticized by players on other MLB teams. The scandal dominated the 2019–2020 offseason and the start of 2020 spring training. The scandal also led to lawsuits against the Astros and MLB.
The series is being played in a 2–3–2 format, with the first two and last two (if necessary) games played at the home ballpark of the higher seeded teamThe 2021 American League Championship Series is the ongoing best-of-seven series in Major League Baseball (MLB) between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros. The series will determine the American League pennant winner, who will advance to the 2021 World Series. The series is being played in a 2–3–2 format, with the first two and last two (if necessary) games played at the home ballpark of the higher seeded team, the Astros. Fox and FS1 is televising all games in the United States.