Astros Cheating Penalties Are In

MLB has reportedly concluded their investigation into the Houston Astros for their involved sign stealing scheme.

  • General Manage Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch have been suspended for one year
  • The Astros have forfeited their first and second draft picks in both 2020 and 2021
  • The Astros have been fined 5 million dollars
  • Former Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman has been placed on baseball’s ineligible list.

As we all know, the Astros were first accused last December to using a center-field video camera to relay pitching signs to batters in real time.  Multiple fan created YouTube videos have backed up that claim showing a very audible series of bangs.  MLB says they reviewed over 76,000 emails and spoke with 60 witnesses during their investigation.

Stealing signs is not explicitly against MLB’s official rules, but where the Astros crossed the line over is their use of technology (a camera/monitor system) to gain information. In a bombshell report published by The Athletic in November, right-hander Mike Fiers, who pitched for the Astros in 2017, gave an on-the-record account of how team used a center-field camera to pick up the opposing team’s catcher’s signs and then relayed the signs to Astros batters. The relay method used to alert hitters of an incoming off-speed pitch supposedly involved banging a trashcan in the dugout.

The Boston Red Sox are also currently under investigation for their use of cameras to steal signs during their 2018 championship season, and punishment is expected to be announced in that case shortly.

So was justice had in this case?  Does the punishment fit the crime?  Personally I think they got off a little light for such a highly coordinated cheating scam, but I don’t really know what more should have been done.

Update 1:

Read MLB’s Official Findings (pdf) 9 Pages News Announcement

“I find that the conduct of the Astros, and its senior baseball operations executives, merits significant discipline,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said as part of the nine-page ruling. “I base this finding on the fact that the club’s senior baseball operations executives were given express notice in September 2017 that I would hold them accountable for violations of our policies covering sign stealing, and those individuals took no action to ensure that the club’s players and staff complied with those policies during the 2017 postseason and the 2018 regular season.

“The conduct described herein has caused fans, players, executives at other MLB clubs, and members of the media to raise questions about the integrity of games in which the Astros participated. And while it is impossible to determine whether the conduct actually impacted the results on the field, the perception of some that it did causes significant harm to the game.”

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According to the ruling, the investigation revealed “absolutely no evidence” that Astros owner Jim Crane was aware of any of the team’s conduct.

“Crane is extraordinarily troubled and upset by the conduct of members of his organization, fully supported my investigation and provided unfettered access to any and all information requested,” Manfred said.

Update 2:

Personally, I’m curious as to why they said the cheating was player driven, yet no player was punished?  They also said the cheating was used heavily in their world series win, and yet they failed to take away that championship.

Update 3:

From Regarding Luhnow

Beginning with Luhnow, Manfred details that the president/GM was “adamant” in denying knowledge of the ongoing sign-stealing scheme. However, the report cites “both documentary and testimonial evidence” which indicates that Luhnow had “some” knowledge of the operation but “did not give it much attention.” Manfred makes clear that he holds Luhnow accountable for the action of all employees, both in the front office and in the dugout, and he goes out of his way to explain that Luhnow largely neglected the memo sent out by the Commissioner’s Office regarding further disciplinary measures for improper use of technology:

Luhnow did not forward the memoranda and did not confirm that the players and field staff were in compliance with MLB rules and the memoranda. Had Luhnow taken those steps in September 2017, it is clear to me that the Astros would have ceased both sign-stealing schemes at that time.

Regarding Hinch

As far as Hinch is concerned, Manfred indicates in his report that the manager was aware but not supportive of the trash-can system. That system, it seems, was largely put into place by Cora and newly hired Mets skipper Carlos Beltran. Hinch, according to the league’s investigation, actually expressed frustration with the operation and damaged the hallway monitor to the point of needing replacement on two occasions, but he also never brought the issue to the attention of Luhnow or anyone in the Commissioner’s Office. “As the person with responsibility for managing his players and coaches, there simply is no justification for Hinch’s failure to act,” the report reads.

Regarding the lack of player punishments

As for the players themselves, the Commissioner’s Office will not be seeking out punishment against them. That seemingly includes Beltran, who is being treated as a player (as he was in ’17) rather than his newfound role as a Major League manager. Manfred explains that in 2017, he made the decision that he “would hold a Club’s General Manager and Field Manager accountable for misconduct of this kind” and has no plans to deviate from that line of thinking. He’s also clear to note that multiple players acknowledged they were keenly aware that they were crossing a line and would have stopped had Hinch or another authority figure cracked down on the behavior — a reality that surely factored into the decision to suspend Hinch.

Update 4:

Update 5:

Per ESPN – Houston just fired Jeff Luhnow and AJ Hinch

Luhnow and Hinch were suspended for the 2020 season, but Crane said the team wanted to go beyond that ruling.

“We need to move forward with a clean slate,” he said.

Jim Crane will be taking over baseball operations in the meantime.

Further edits will come as more information is revealed

31 thoughts on “Astros Cheating Penalties Are In

  1. AJ Hinch loses a year in the dugout, along with his pay therefore. That seems a pretty significant hit for him. It probably hurts Luhnow less—unless he gets fired now. If he keeps his job, a lot of it can be done remotely or offsite.

    Now we wait to see what happens with the Red Sox and particularly Alex Cora since (a) the Red Sox are not first time offenders and (b) Cora was a coach on the 2017 Astros.


      1. Well, I had a whole thing about how Luhnow had a greater net worth and really could have worked from home for a year like other suspended school execs have both in baseball and other sports, whereas Hinch really couldn’t work for a year and the loss of $1.2 million—his annual salary—would actually hurt.
        Instead…screw it. They’re both out of a job because Jim Crane just fired them both. Whatever shortcomings there might have been in their punishments have been summarily rendered moot.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. I live near OKC. This state has spawned , among others, Mickey Mantle, Warren Spahn, Johnny Bench, Joe Carter, and even AJ Hinch. Yet I work in a wasteland of baseball fandom. If I try to talk Baseball at work, I’m met with blank, uncomprehending stares. This is my oasis, where I can actually interact with other fans. It’s also blissfully troll-free.
        (My daughter’s new boyfriend is at least a baseball fan, so that’s good…even if he does root for the he Yankees.)


        1. I feel your pain. I spent many years in the football wasteland. Your consolation is that you might run into Michael Fulmer at QT.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Ok, so now that I’ve read the report, holy cow! So, any future violations by Hinch & Luhnow mean being permanently ineligible. No three strikes in baseball! I wish Taubman was permanently ineligible, but I feel confident that even if he applies for reinstatement after the WS, he will do something to get banned again. Because he’s morally corrupt. So, I expect him to return to finance and flourish. Or go to work at the White House.

    I really expect Manfred to drop the hammer on Cora. Man, their owner really took a wrong turn with the last couple of managerial hires, eh?

    I feel like Manfred really scapegoated Fiers in his report. He makes it sound like the whole thing started with Fiers’ confession, but there were accusations the Astros were stealing signs before that. And Manfred didn’t act on those allegations. He only investigated after Fiers confirmed it publicly — meaning Manfred knew he had a PR issue to head off going in. And, of course, there’s the disregard for Little Big Man’s dictates after slapping the BoSox’ hand before. Really, the players made him do this when they defied his dictates. I just know the guys in MLB FO’s will probably start wearing a cup for a bit.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I know you can’t expect your favorite players to be good guys, but I am sad right now thinking JV AND Altuve did these things. So disappointing. This is a reminder why I have to root team and not names. Sigh.


      1. If he was a ringleader here, he may need to wear the star instead of sullying the OE D. I know, it already has a bad history. I’m just disappointed.


      2. Just a reminder, the player can voice a preference, but the HoF picks the hat. My money’s on a hat with no logo for Verlander.


  4. My joke in the last comment aside, Jeff Passan had a very good article up this AM at ESPN about how lightly Crane got off in all this. Near the end was what I considered the money line:
    “ How many owners in baseball would trade $5 million, four high draft picks and the firing of their GM and manager in exchange for a World Series title?

    Twenty-five? Twenty-eight? All 30? “I don’t know that I would,” one team president said, “but I don’t know that I wouldn’t.” It was an honest answer. The decisions made in search of championships, in service of winning, are complicated. Right and wrong blur. It’s why Manfred chafes at the complaints of owners. How many are being honest about what they’d do in that same scenario?”


  5. We just had a big discussion in the office this morning about the scale of punishment and why no players received anything. My thoughts on that are that punishing players for this is difficult as you can’t really punish everyone, nor can you determine degree of guilt or involvement. Yes, the fact that no one spoke up (except Fiers) is not a good look, (especially since this was the worst-kept secret in baseball, apparently) but how to you punish all the players, some of whom are now with other teams.

    IMO, the punishment for the Astros’ players is as follows:

    • their manager and GM are fired and banned for a year;
    • their organization is hobbled from making improvements by the loss of 5 million bucks and a couple of years’ of draft picks;

    …and more importantly:

    • their owner is seriously pissed;
    • the Commissioner is seriously pissed;
    • the new GM and manager will be anxious to put this behind them so will be tolerating nothing: and
    • the whole organization will be under an electron microscope for years to come.

    As for Boston, I think we are about to see wrath of God descending on Alex Cora. That he was the instigator of this with Houston and then went on to manage the Red Sox and they are ALSO under investigation for the same thing (after already having been fined for this once) means that Manfred will be taking the gloves off and making an example of him. My thoughts are that a 2-year suspension is the minimum he will get, but my office is in agreement that being perma-banned is not out of the realm of possibility.

    Fiers disclosure put the Commissioner’s Office in a bind and made it so he HAD to react, and strongly. A slap on the wrist would have been a sign of a weak Commissioner’s Office and tacit permission for every other club to do the same without consequences. Manfred HAD to bring the hammer down to let everyone know that ignoring his previous warning about this issue was stupid and to show that this is a strong Commissioner’s Office and any shenanigans that besmirch the honor and integrity of the game will be dealt with quickly and harshly. This is as much about deterrence as it is about punishment, but the punishment — especially the one about to descend upon Alex Cora — will be enough to be a VERY effective deterrent.

    I also think that Carlos Beltran must know that he will now be under very close scrutiny in New York, especially after the way he was called out in the report. He’s probably counting his blessings that Manfred didn’t punish any players.


    1. Another punishment for the players:

      • disappointment of fans (like Historio) that no one decided to say “This is not right!”. Silence is seen as tacit approval, and the fact that the so-called “good guys” like Altuve, Springer, Bregman, etc., didn’t come out against this makes them look as guilty as Cora.


      1. All this highlights the dubious charms of being a Feesh fan: if you stole their signs, you wouldn’t be able to trade them for food stamps, so no one bothers.


  6. What a mess. I don’t see how vacating the title would help, but the penalties I feel aren’t heavy enough to impact the clubs given the scale of money they truck in.


    1. The penalties won’t really impact Crane, the Astros owner, at all. However, $5M is the max fine Manfred can levy on a team by the MLB bylaws. Since the owners employ him, he’s not likely to want to go heavy on one (like banning one the Marge Schott was for her racism or George Steinbrenner was), not unless it’s obvious the other 29 owners are behind him.

      The deterrent here is GMs and managers not liking to lose their incomes/jobs and the likelihood of ultimately getting caught.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. After years of losing seasons Astro fans are finally rewarded by their team’s first world series title. Now that reward is tainted and I bet their reaction will mean that this is going to cost the Astro organization a whole lot more than 5 million.

    They are the ones who were most wronged. We should go over and bring someguy a casserole so he doesn’t have to cook tonight and a bottle of whiskey.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This pretty much puts a giant exclamation point on all the recent Asstro shenanigans that started when they picked up paragon of virtue Osuna. Wonder how our old friend Stex52 feels about all this junk.

    Liked by 2 people

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