Former University of Tennessee player Yan Gomes, catcher for Washington Nationals, was part of a carefully orchestrated plan to prevent the Houston Astros from stealing signs against National pitchers in preparation for last year’s World Series.
According to the Washington Post in a report by Barry Svrluga and Dave Sheinin, Gomes and fellow Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki each wore large wristbands, similar to those worn by NFL quarterbacks, with an elaborate set of sign sequences to use against the Astros in the World Series, ultimately won by the Nationals in seven games. Nationals pitchers had similar information underneath their caps, according to the Post.
The move was a special precaution in light of strong chatter throughout Major League Baseball about the Astros stealing signs, long before Commissioner Rob Manfred announced a crackdown on the trash-can-banging scheme used by the Astros in 2017, the year the Astros won the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Manfred, who issued his stinging report on Jan. 13 of this year, suspended Astros manager A.J. Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow for not stopping the cheating in 2017. Both were then fired by the club. Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was bench coach for the Astros in 2017, and Carlos Beltran, who was reportedly the ringleader of the scheme as a player for the Astros, both lost other managing jobs in the fallout of the scandal, Cora from the Red Sox and Beltran from the Mets.
The extra steps by the Nationals to avoid any detection of pitchers’ signs was the result of the Nationals’ own fact-finding mission, after hearing of possible cheating by the Astros, according to the Post. A direct tip came from former Astros pitcher Tony Sipp, who had been with the Nationals earlier in 2019, when quizzed by Washington pitcher Max Scherzer. When Scherzer asked Sipp if there was any reason to think the Astros could steal signs without having a runner on second base to try to decipher signs, Sipp, according to the report, said yes. The Nationals then employed the special effort to avoid any sign-stealing. Gomes was not quoted in the Post report.
The Astros saga has dominated talk in the off-season and, as teams now begin spring training in Florida and Arizona, players and managers are being asked repeatedly about the cheating scandal. The Astros and the Nationals both train in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Gomes, 31, played 97 games for the Nationals last season as a catcher and first baseman. He batted .223 with 12 home runs and 43 RBIs. He caught five of the seven World Series games, getting three hits in 16 plate appearances.
Gomes is the first major league player who was born in Brazil. He was 12 when he came to the United States and played high school baseball in Miami. He played for the University of Tennessee, where he played every infield position except shortstop, before transferring to Barry University in Miami. Gomes was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2008 out of Tennessee but did not sign. He was drafted out of Barry in 2009 by the Toronto Blue Jays, signed with the team, and played for the major-league Jays in 2012. Gomes played for the Cleveland Indians 2013-18.
The Nationals won all four games played at Houston in the 2019 World Series.