After being named in Major League Baseball’s report on the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, new details have emerged on Carlos Beltrán’s role in the scheme.
In a new report from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich, some members of the Astros “felt powerless” to stop Beltrán. Clubhouse dynamics came into play, and Beltrán, a 20-year veteran, reportedly didn’t take too well to players approaching him about the operation. Players described him to The Athletic as “El Jefe, the Godfather, the king, the alpha male in the building.”
Half a dozen former Astros players spoke with The Athletic on the condition of anonymity, and said some players were afraid to approach Beltrán and express their disdain for the cheating scheme. At one point, veteran catcher Brian McCann approached Beltrán and asked him to end the operation.
“He disregarded it and steamrolled everybody,” one of the team members said. “Where do you go if you’re a young, impressionable player with the Astros and this guy says, ‘We’re doing this’? What do you do?”
MLB released its report on Jan. 13 describing how the Astros stole opponents’ signs electronically with the help of an outfield camera. Video was fed to a monitor near the club’s dugout, where players communicated to the batter that an off-speed pitch was coming by banging on a trashcan. No banging meant the pitch was a fastball.
Alex Cora, the Astros’ 2017 bench coach, and Carlos Beltrán were the only participants named in the report. Along with the report’s release, commissioner Rob Manfred suspended manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow through the World Series. However, owner Jim Crane subsequently fired Hinch and Luhnow, and Cora and Beltrán later lost their managerial roles with the Red Sox and Mets.
The report stated Hinch damaged the monitor twice in an effort to urge players to stop stealing signs. He confirmed that happened during an exclusive interview last week with Sports Illustrated‘s Tom Verducci which aired on MLB Network. Hinch apologized and expressed his regret for not stopping his players from cheating.
About an hour before the interview aired, the Wall Street Journal reported the origins of Houston’s electronic sign-stealing operation, a scheme that was first conceived in the front office with the development of an Excel-based application programmed with an algorithm to decode a catcher’s signs.
According to The Athletic, the Astros’ front office had a role in the team’s sign-stealing methods, but the trashcan banging started with uniformed personnel.
“What happened was Cora and Beltrán decided that this video room stuff [including director of advance information Tom] Koch-Weser was doing [with Codebreaker] was just not working, inefficient, too slow,” a source told The Athletic. “They just had some lower-level guy put up this monitor and did it themselves.”
Beltrán retired after the 2017 season and returned to the Yankees, who he previously played for, as a special advisor to general manager Brian Cashman. According to The Athletic, his impact on the team was “minimal.”
When asked by a Yankees official about the Astros allegedly stealing signs, he reportedly told him it was “nothing no one else is doing.”
The Mets hired Beltrán last November, only for him to be fired in January.
“Over my 20 years in the game, I’ve always taken pride in being a leader and doing things the right way, and in this situation, I failed,” Beltrán said in a statement after he parted ways with the Mets. “As a veteran player on the team, I should’ve recognized the severity of the issue and truly regret the actions that were taken.
“I am a man of faith and integrity and what took place did not demonstrate those characteristics that are so very important to me and my family. I’m very sorry.”
Beltrán has not commented since and did not respond when The Athletic reached out.