Houston accused of more wrongdoing

New report of illegal sign-stealing puts Astros back under scrutiny

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Back in 2017, the Houston Astros could be considered the darlings of the MLB. They helped pull a Harvey-ravaged city out of despair and into a celebration in a matter of months with the acquisition of Justin Verlander and subsequent World Series victory. The young team full of potential suddenly had the attention of not only fans but other MLB clubs and the league's front office.

On Tuesday, that attention reared itself yet again in a severely negative way, with the Athletic reporting(subscription required) that former-Astro Mike Fiers was alleging and confirming that his former team used illegal means to steal signs in their 2017 championship season. Fiers, along with three other anonymous sources with the team in 2017, claims that the team used cameras and other technology to monitor opposing catchers to relay signs to batters in real-time. The Astros have released the following statement:

"Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time."

While GM Jeff Luhnow had this to say:

Another negative blow to the team's reputation

This is not the first time the Astros have been under a microscope in recent years, the most recent being less than a month ago when assistant general manager Brandon Taubman taunted reporters in the Astros clubhouse following their ALCS series-clinching win. The Astros fumbled that event, coming out with a rebuttal against the reporter, which would eventually be retracted, and Taubman terminated from his employment.

Neither is this the first time the Astros have dealt with accusations of sign-stealing and other forms of cheating. In this year's ALCS, the Yankees complained about a "whistling" noise from Houston's dugout they believed to be a method of relaying pitches to batters at the plate. Also, in the 2018 postseason, the Astros found themselves under fire for having an employee taking photos of the opposing team's dugout.

It's just part of the game until it's not

Both pitch tipping and stealing signs are things that are nearly unavoidable in baseball. With the catcher having to relay a sign to the pitcher 60.5 feet away using his hands, the opposing team will inevitably try to decipher what's coming. The same is true of tipping, where if a pitcher has a tell before a specific pitch, that information will quickly spread through the dugout.

However, there is a line teams should not cross, and that comes by way of utilizing technology to aid further the ability to steal signs, and using that to give an immediate advantage to a batter amid an at-bat. The Astros are not the first team to be alleged of this type of grievance, as the Red Sox received a fine after utilizing a smartwatch to try and steal signs.

It's a widely known and accepted fact that teams will try anything within reason to get a leg up on their opponent. However, with technology ever improving both for organizations to use and be caught by, it's no surprise that this is becoming an issue that the MLB will have to deal with, and soon.

Ramifications could loom large

Will the Astros be found guilty and made an example of to deter other teams for trying similar tactics? It appears we will have to wait for the conclusion of this investigation to find out. While it may not be an indictment of the entire team, it will bring into question the integrity and character of many of the team.

Still, no matter the outcome, the report alone and continued negativity surrounding the Astros organization has made them villains of many, a role that many would not have expected this team to play if asked just two years ago.

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How about the Texans land Sean Payton and keep their 1st round picks this year? Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images.

Former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton caught the attention of a lot of Houston Texans fans on Monday with comments he made on The Herd with Colin Cowherd.

Payton said he is absolutely considering the Texans’ gig citing the team’s draft capital, the AFC South and casual relationships with owner Cal McNair and general manager Nick Caserio as reasons for it, which cast a different light on the Houston job.

Whether Payton and the Texans ultimately wind up together, only time will tell, but if both sides were to agree that they are the right fit for each other, what would it take to land Payton in Houston?

Payton’s situation is a bit unique in that the Saints still hold his contractual rights because he signed a five-year extension with the team in 2019 before he retired in 2022. In order for the Texans, or any other team, to land Payton, they will likely have to give up a significant draft choice. Payton alluded to it during his conversation on The Herd.

New Orleans is likely looking for a mid-to-late first-round pick. A hefty price to pay in the NFL, but is there a way for the Texans to get a trade to work if they were to become convinced he is the right man for the job?

Like Payton said, Houston has put itself in a position where it owns a lot of draft picks, and a good portion of them come from the Cleveland Browns courtesy of the Deshaun Watson deal.

For 2023, the Texans have two first-round picks — the No. 2 overall pick and No. 12 from Cleveland. In 2024, Houston has two first-round picks as well, its own and that of the Cleveland Browns.

Looking at other teams across the league that are also reportedly interested in Payton, the Texans clearly have the edge over them. The Denver Broncos have only one first-round draft pick in this year’s draft, and it comes from the San Francisco 49ers, meaning it will be a late draft pick.

The Arizona Cardinals have the third overall pick in 2023. It's their only first-round draft pick this season. It would not make sense for them to part ways with that pick. The Carolina Panthers have the ninth overall pick in the 2023 draft. Similar to Arizona, it's their only pick in the first round and it would not make sense for them to part ways with it for Payton.

The Los Angeles Chargers are an intriguing team following the collapse in the Wild Card round last weekend against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

LA has the 21st overall pick in the 2023 draft. With Justin Herbert and various weapons across both sides of the ball, the Chargers are one team that could afford to trade its first-round pick in exchange for a head coach that could take them over the top. At the moment, it does seem like Brandon Staley will stay for at least one more season.

Lastly, come the Dallas Cowboys. Head coach Mike McCarthy’s seat cooled off tremendously following the team’s stellar performance against Tampa Bay in the Wild Card, but an abysmal performance against San Francisco this weekend could heat it up in a heartbeat.

The Cowboys will have a late first-round draft pick regardless of how they perform against the 49ers. No price will be too big to pay for Jerry Jones if he believes Payton is the final piece to a championship puzzle.

When it comes down to the Texans, outside of the Chargers and Cowboys, whom both appear to be long shots for Payton, there is no incentive to trade a first-round pick this year for Payton if both sides agree to work together.

For a team that has holes across various positions, trading away the No. 12 pick is not a wise move, even if it does land the most qualified candidate on the market. Houston could offer next year’s Cleveland first-round pick, which with a full year of Watson will likely be a later first-round pick.

Could adding a fourth-round pick this season on top of next year’s first be enough for the Saints? The thing about this scenario, which favors the Texans, is that in the event both sides agree they are the right fit for each other, there is not really much leverage New Orleans can use to increase the price.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis wouldn’t send Payton, the 15-year leader of the organization, to a team he does not want to coach for just because they are offering a greater draft pick, or a first-round selection this year.

At the end of the day, it comes down to Payton and what he wants. If Houston is his landing spot, then there is a good chance the Texans could get him for a lesser price than this year’s 12th overall pick.

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