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. 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., right-hander
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.
“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.”
More from MLB.com
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.
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.
From MLBTR.com – 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.
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.
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