LeBron James calls on MLB to listen to players over Houston Astros sign-stealing

The Houston Astros celebrate after winning the 2017 World Series
The Astros beat the Dodgers to win their first World Series in 2017

Basketball star LeBron James has called on Major League Baseball to listen to players "disgusted" by the Houston Astros "sign-stealing" scandal.

A MLB report in January found the Astros illegally used a camera to steal signs from catchers to pitchers during their 2017 World Series-winning season.

No Astros players were punished and they will not be stripped of the title.

Several prominent players on other teams have criticised the Astros and MLB's handling of the case.

"Listen I know I don't play baseball but I am in sports and I know if someone cheated me out of winning the title and I found out about it I would be irate," said Los Angeles Lakers player LeBron James on Twitter.

"I mean like uncontrollable about what I would/could do!"

James told MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to "listen to your players speaking about how disgusted, mad, hurt, broken [they are] about this".

He added: "Literally the ball is in your court (or should I say field) and you need to fix this for the sake of sports!"

The Astros were fined $5m (£3.8m), the highest amount permitted, and forfeited their first- and second-round draft picks for 2020 and 2021 for the scheme, which enabled batters to know what type of pitch was coming.

General manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch were fired after being suspended for a year, the Boston Red Sox sacked manager Alex Cora, who was the Astros bench coach at the time, and former Astros player Carlos Beltran stepped down as New York Mets manager.

But Manfred granted the players immunity in return for testimony about how the sign-stealing scheme worked.

On Tuesday, Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis said he was "angry" about the players getting away "scot-free" and that Manfred "should be embarrassed" by his handling of the investigation.

"I feel like every single guy over there needs a beating," added Markakis.

"It's wrong. They're messing with people's careers."

Three-time American League MVP Mike Trout said he has "lost respect" for the Astros players involved in the scandal.

"They cheated," said the Los Angeles Angels outfielder.

"I don't agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything - it was a player-driven thing.

"It sucks, too, because guys' careers have been affected. A lot of people lost jobs. It was tough."

Los Angeles Dodgers star Cody Bellinger, who side lost the 2017 World Series, said the Astros had "stolen the ring from us".

"I thought Manfred's punishment was weak, giving them immunity," he added.

Manfred said on Sunday he understood why people felt the players should have been punished but that it was necessary to grant immunity in order to "get the facts" of the case.

"If I was in a world where I could've found all the facts without granting immunity, I would've done that," he said.

What is 'sign stealing'?

It happens when teams monitor what finger signs a catcher is using to request specific deliveries - such as a fastball, curveball or slider - from his pitcher.

MLB rules prohibit the use of electronic equipment to steal signs but otherwise the practice, while frowned upon, is not against the rules.

The Astros would monitor catchers' signals via a camera in the outfield, before banging on a rubbish bin inside the clubhouse to signal to the batter that an off-speed pitch was expected.

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