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Major League Baseball issued harsh penalties against the Houston Astros on Monday after a lengthy investigation into the team’s use of technology to steal signs. The sanctions include one-year suspensions for Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow as well as a $5 million fine and the loss of future draft picks.
Shortly after the sanctions were announced, the Astros fired both Hinch and Luhnow, each of whom will be ineligible to partake in the 2020 season.
Here is the full list of Houston’s penalties:
· Manager A.J. Hinch suspended for one year. Hinch was then fired by the Astros.
· GM Jeff Luhnow suspended for one year. Luhnow was then fired by the Astros
· Former assistant GM Brandon Taubman suspended one year.
· Astros forfeit their first- and second- round draft picks the next two years.
· Astros fined $5 million, the maximum allowed under MLB’s constitution.
Here are 10 more things to know about the Astros’ scandal and the league’s punishment.1. Astros’ use of technology crossed line
Stealing signs is not explicitly against MLB’s official rules, but where the Astros crossed the line is their use of technology (a camera/monitor system) to gain information. The Astros used a center-field camera to pick up the opposing catcher’s signs and then relayed the signs to their batters. Players alerted hitters of an incoming off-speed pitch by banging on trashcans in the dugout.
2. $5 million is the maximum penalty
For those wondering, the $5 million fine is not a random figure. Rather, it’s the maximum financial punishment imposable under the current Major League Constitution.
3. Mike Fiers was the whistleblower
In a bombshell report published by The Athletic in November, right-hander Mike Fiers, who pitched for the Astros from 2015-17, gave an on-the-record account of how the Astros crossed the line. “That’s not playing the game the right way,” he said at the time. “They were advanced and willing to go above and beyond to win.”
4. Cora, Red Sox penalties to come
The league’s discipline against the Astros is precedent setting. It’s expected that the Boston Red Sox — and specifically manager Alex Cora — will also face severe punishment for their alleged use of cameras to steal signs during their 2018 championship season. In 2017, the Red Sox were fined for using Apple Watches as part of a sign-stealing scheme, and Manfred warned teams caught cheating in a similar way would be severely disciplined going forward. MLB’s investigation into the Red Sox remains ongoing.
Cora was identified in Manfred’s report as a ringleader of Houston’s sign-stealing (and otherwise “player-driven”) operation.
5. Beltran also named in report
In addition to Cora, one other current big-league manager is named in the report: New York Mets skipper Carlos Beltran. Because Beltran was a player at the time, and because MLB isn’t punishing players who were involved, he seems likely to avoid any kind of suspension.
6. Crane not being blamed
Another individual who will skate free is Astros owner Jim Crane. In the introduction of the report, Manfred stated that “I can say our investigation revealed absolutely no evidence” that Crane “was aware of any of the conduct described in this report.” Crane, according to Manfred, is said to be “extraordinarily troubled and upset by the conduct of members of his organization.”
Hinch, it should be noted, is said to have destroyed the monitor the Astros used to steal signs on two occasions, but did not put an end to the operation, and did not alert Luhnow or a higher authority.
7. Who might replace Luhnow and Hinch?
The Astros will now have to name a new manager and GM. According to multiple reports, Joe Espada, Houston’s bench coach under Hinch in 2019, will take over the managerial role. Espada was a candidate for multiple managerial openings outside of Houston this winter. If, at least on an interim basis, the organization stays in-house for GM, then the favorite would seem to be Pete Putila, who was promoted to assistant GM back in September.
8. League conducted exhaustive investigation
According to a report released last December, Astros personnel admitted to MLB that the club used a center-field video camera to rely pitching signs in real time. MLB’s months-long investigation started shortly after The Athletic’s report and it covered the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons. Investigators interviewed 60 witnesses and gathered 76,000 emails related to the Astros sign-stealing scheme.
9. Report suggests Astros have bad culture
One other noteworthy piece from the report is its conclusion on the Astros’ baseball operations culture. “While no one can dispute that Luhnow’s baseball operations department is an industry leader in its analytics, it is very clear to me that the culture of the baseball operations department, manifesting itself in the way its employees are treated, its relations with other Clubs, and its relations with the media and external stakeholders, has been very problematic.”
10. Luhnow or Hinch respond
Luhnow released a statement on Monday evening, saying he is “not a cheater.” The former Houston GM added he was “deeply upset” he wasn’t alerted about the sign-stealing scheme because he “would have stopped it.” Here’s his full statement:
Here is Jeff Luhnow’s full statement, his first response to today’s news. pic.twitter.com/9AbDFEtkbP
— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) January 13, 2020
Hinch also released a statement on Monday, and his came through the Astros organization. Here’s what Hinch said:
“I appreciate Commissioner Manfred’s unwavering commitment to upholding the best interests of baseball. I regret being connected to these events, am disappointed in our club’s actions within this timeline, and I accept the Commissioner’s decision.
As a leader and Major League Manager, it is my responsibility to lead players and staff with integrity that represents the game in the best possible way. While the evidence consistently showed I didn’t endorse or participate in the sign stealing practices, I failed to stop them and I am deeply sorry.
I apologize to Mr. Crane for all negative reflections this may have had on him and the Astros organization. To the fans, thank you for your continued support through this challenging time – and for this team. I apologize to all of you for our mistakes but I’m confident we will learn from it – and I personally commit to work tirelessly to ensure I do.
My time in Houston has provided some of the greatest moments in my career and those memories will always be near and dear to me and my family. I regret that my time with the Astros has ended, but will always be a supporter of the club, players, and staff I’ve had the privilege of working alongside. I wish them the best in the future of the game I love.”