The investigation of the Houston Astros' alleged sign-stealing scandal has been extended beyond 2017 to include the 2018 and 2019 seasons, commissioner Rob Manfred disclosed Thursday.
"We are talking to people all over the industry, former employees, competitors, whatever," Manfred said as the owners meetings concluded Thursday in Arlington, Texas. "To the extent that we find other leads, we are going to follow these leads. We will get to the bottom of what we have out there in terms of what went on to the extent that it's humanly possible."
According to an earlier report in the Houston Chronicle, clubhouse video room monitors were instructed by MLB before the 2019 season to check for banging noises inside the Astros dugout at their home stadium, Minute Maid Park. That might indicate that MLB already knew about possible sign-stealing tactics before this latest investigation began.
"Every time we've gotten a lead, we chased that lead down to the extent we felt was investigatively possible," Manfred said. "Obviously an individual breaking what is a pretty firm commitment to silence about what goes on in dugouts and clubhouses is a big break in an investigation and an opportunity to push forward that we hadn't had previously."
The Astros are alleged to have stolen signs electronically throughout the 2017 season, according to a report first made last week by The Athletic. Former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers alleged the 2017 champions used a camera stationed in the outfield at Minute Maid Park to steal signs during home games.
The expanded investigation will also look into how the Astros handled the situation after former assistant general manager Brandon Taubman taunted three female reporters following the Houston's pennant-clinching win against the New York Yankees.
The Astros initially called a story by Sports Illustrated's Stephanie Apstein "misleading" and "irresponsible."
Following interviews of media members and Astros employees conducted by the team and by MLB, the team admitted its mistake and apologized for Taubman's behavior. Taubman was fired by the club on Oct. 24.
Regarding the two incidents involving the Astros, Manfred said the separate investigations "ended up as one big thing."
"It's hard to separate them out," Manfred added. "I hope at the end of this undertaking, I'll put both of these issues to bed at one time."
During the three-day meetings, Astros owner Jim Crane declined to comment on the investigation.
Manfred again would not speculate on the possible punishment if the Astros are found responsible of any wrongdoing.
On Tuesday, he said, "That depends on how the facts are established at the end of the investigation. The general warning I issued to the clubs, I stand by. It certainly could be all of those [past disciplinary actions], but my authority under the major league constitution would be broader than those things as well."
--Field Level Media