After playing for the Minnesota Twins over seven MLB seasons, Trevor Plouffe played for three teams over his final two seasons in the majors. In 2018 – the final season of his MLB career – Plouffe spent most of the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but played in seven games with the Phillies. He was a decent major league infielder with a couple of big seasons in Minnesota. The Twins drafted him out of high school with the 20th overall pick in the 2004 Draft. Plouffe didn’t play baseball in 2019 and at age 33, his playing days are likely behind him.
With plenty of baseball experience and connections around the game, Plouffe has remained active and is a regular Twitter commentator regarding baseball and sports in general. He has over 44,000 followers, so the things that he says reach a good amount of people.
Perhaps you’ve followed the allegations that the Astros were getting signs, which enabled their hitters to have an advantage. Former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers alleged that Houston used a center field camera feed with a monitor near the dugout to give hitters notice of what pitch to expect. There were also allegations made against the 2019 Astros and the 2018 Boston Red Sox, which means the past three World Series could have been tainted by the scandal.
Plouffe jumped into the fray this week reporting that he was told by someone in the know that the Astros used technology and their bullpen catcher to know what opposing pitchers were going to throw.
According to @Carson_Smith39 and now confirmed by my source, the Astros had someone watching a live feed and then relaying the pitch calls via ear piece to the bullpen catcher. Hands up on fence for FB and hands down for offspeed.— Trevor Plouffe (@trevorplouffe) November 14, 2019
The Twitter handle cited in Plouffe’s tweet is former Red Sox pitcher Carson Smith, who pitched for the Sox from 2016 through 2018, which like Plouffe, was his final season in the bigs. Smith pitched for Boston in the 2017 ALDS, but did not pitch in the postseason for Boston in 2018.
In a later tweet, Plouffe states that there is footage – which he did not have immediate access to – that shows Houston hitters looking toward right-center field where the Astros bullpen was located in the time between when the pitcher received his signs and the pitcher went into their delivery.
Plouffe had a rather spirited exchange with several Twitter followers. One believed that there wouldn’t be enough time for a hitter to glance to right-center, to which Plouffe replied that there absolutely would be time. Having played the game since he was five, he would probably know. Another pointed out that stealing signs has gone on in the game for years and is part of the fabric of the game. However, he conceded that the use of technology to enhance the thievery takes it to another level.
I understand there is a difference. I believe the Astros should be punished accordingly. My point is that this is going to continue to happen and isn’t an isolated event. I’d rather just be proactive about it.— Trevor Plouffe (@trevorplouffe) November 14, 2019
Plouffe made it clear that he in no way condones cheating in any manner, but conceded that stealing signs isn’t something new. He advocated for punishment and being proactive when teams or players are caught cheating.
Major League Baseball has launched an official investigation into the cheating by both Boston and Houston and will be interviewing several people connected to both teams about what they know. It’s possible that punishment will be handed down as a result of the investigation. Among the people to be interviewed are current Astros manager A.J. Hinch, current Red Sox manager Joey Cora and new Mets manager Carlos Beltran. All three were members of the 2017 Astros, with Hinch as manager, Cora as the bench coach and Beltran as a player.
The situation for the Astros is especially precarious since Major League Baseball is also concerned about comments that former Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman made inappropriate comments to female reporters following the Astros clinching of the American League championship. Taubman was eventually fired by the team, although at first, they denied his comments, which were collaborated by other reporters.
The Phillies are not immune to the issue of stealing signs. In 2010, Hall of Fame baseball writer Tracy Ringolsby reported that Major League Baseball warned the Phillies about stealing signs against the Colorado Rockies. In that instance, bullpen catcher Mick Billmeyer was seen with binoculars in the bullpen. The official explanation was that he was using them to study how Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz was setting up behind the plate. Video evidence though showed him focusing on Miguel Olivo, the Rockies catcher, while the Phillies were batting.
To be clear, stealing signs is not illegal. Major League Baseball has previously turned a blind-eye to the subject unless a team complained, as in the case of the Phillies issue when the Rockies complained about the incident. The use of technology brings the issue to a new level and is something that baseball is now looking into.