The Astros have fired GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch after MLB gave them each one-year suspensions for their involvement in the team’s illegal sign-stealing during the 2017 season. The ‘Stros, who won the 2017 World Series and were runners-up in 2019, will also forfeit their first and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021 and pay a $5 million fine, the maximum legal amount.
After a months-long investigation, MLB found that the Astros connected a live feed from the centerfield camera — zoomed in on opposing catchers — to decipher sign sequences from the opposing catcher. While some Astros players monitored the feed, others would alert their teammate in the batter’s box by banging a trash can from the dugout. MLB’s investigation found that the Astros continued their illegal sign-stealing through the 2017 postseason, when they won the World Series.
“We need to move forward with a clean slate and the Astros will become a stronger organization because of this today,” team owner Jim Crane said in a press conference. “You can be confident that we’ll always do the right thing and will not have this happen on our watch.” Crane said he had plans to install a “compliance program” to avoid future instances of cheating.
According to the report, Houston also experimented with clapping, yelling and whistling to relay pitch types to their teammates as they faced the opposing pitcher. Hinch called the whistling suggestion “ridiculous” during the 2019 ALCS, when they beat the Yankees.
If Luhnow or Hinch, now unemployed, are found to violate any more MLB rules upon continuing their baseball careers, they will be placed on the league’s permanently ineligible list.
Brandon Taubman was placed on MLB’s ineligible list. The former assistant GM was fired for taunting three journalists about the team’s 2018 acquisition of accused domestic abuser Roberto Osuna, then smearing their credibility in concert with the Astros’ public relations team.
He can apply for reinstatement after the 2020 season.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was Hinch’s bench coach in 2017 and an architect of Houston’s sign-stealing setup, has not been suspended — yet.
MLB is also undergoing an investigation of alleged sign-stealing by the 2018 Red Sox, which won the World Series in Cora’s first year as manager.
No players were disciplined for their roles in the scandal, including Carlos Beltran, who was reported to help shape the system.
(More Sports) Here’s everything in MLB’s case on the Astros’ sign-stealing »
Beltran retired after the 2017 season and will manage the Mets in 2020.
The Yankees were eliminated by the Astros twice in the last three years, including in 2017's closely-contested seven-game ALCS. Brian Cashman had strong words about the team’s allegations back in November.
“You decide to play by the rules, or you don’t,” said Cashman shortly after The Athletic’s initial report. “And if you don’t, there’s consequences. You’re putting yourself at risk whether it’s future employment, current employment, or sanctions.”
In a statement, commissioner Rob Manfred said that the Astros’ baseball operations department under Lunhow had become “very problematic,” an assessment that Crane told reporters he disagreed with.
“At least in my view, the baseball operations department’s insular culture – one that valued and rewarded results over other considerations, combined with a staff of individuals who often lacked direction or sufficient oversight, led, at least in part, to the Brandon Taubman incident, the Club’s admittedly inappropriate and inaccurate response to that incident, and finally, to an environment that allowed the conduct described in this report to have occurred.”
Crane told reporters that he plans to oversee baseball operations and fill Crane and Lunhow’s roles in time for spring training. Internal candidates will be interviewed for Luhnow’s open position.
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