“I find that the conduct of the Astros, and its senior baseball operations executives, merits significant discipline.” So said Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred in a 9-page ruling.
The penalties for the cheating started with the one-year suspensions for general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch. The league also levied a fine of $5 million and forfeiture of their first and second round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts.
Astros owner Jim Crane then swiftly fired both Luhnow and Hinch.
Some people wonder if that was enough. The sign stealing scheme required the knowledge and participation of more than those two. There was a scout in the outfield using a camera to record the signs and then someone in the clubhouse to receive the video and then play and interpret it for the players. Then of course the players likely knew — how could they not? After the scandal broke we then learned that the Astros’ 2017 bench coach, Alex Cora — who is now the manager of the Boston Red Sox — designed the scheme.
The $5 million fine seems like a drop in the bucket of yearly revenues collected by a team with the stature of the Astros. The loss of draft picks could be significant though and impact the team’s future.
No one can accurately say how much the sign stealing impacted the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the years the league investigated. The Astros won the World Series in 2017, but didn’t make it back to the Fall Classic in 2018 and then lost in 2019 to the Washington Nationals. But there is a perception it had an impact, especially in 2017 when they won the series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, in Game 7. It should be noted that in the crucial Game 7 at Dodger Stadium the Dodger bats could only score 1 run. Astros OF George Springer was named the 2017 World Series MVP.
In the ruling Manfred also said, “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.”
The league is also investigating the Boston Red Sox who were accused of using a similar sign stealing scheme. But manager Alex Cora was the bench coach of the 2017 Astros and set up the sign stealing plan in Houston so he is expected to be harshly disciplined for his role that season. But the league will likely hold off handing down a punishment to Cora until their investigation of the Red Sox is completed.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have not yet released a statement on the league’s decision, but during the 2019 Winter Meetings manager Dave Roberts told the media, “Regardless of how I feel, it happened and the commissioner, they’re going to deal with it in the way they see best.”
He also said he and Hinch are still friends and that the two have talked since the scandal became public. You can watch the comments of Hinch and Roberts, plus the commissioner in the video reports below. Our sports reporter Claudia Gestro was at the Winter Meetings, which were held in San Diego.
Photos by Claudia Gestro
Top photo: former Astros manager A.J. Hinch during the 2019 Winter Meetings in San Diego, CA
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