Astros Handed Stiff Penalty for Sign-Stealing Scandal

Houston Astros' Alex Bregman watches during the eighth inning of Game 7 of the baseball World Series against the Washington Nationals Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman watches during the eighth inning of Game 7 of the baseball World Series against the Washington Nationals Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

January 13, 2020: At 2:00 PM (EST), sources indicated that Major League Baseball has handed down a punishment to the Houston Astros for their sign-stealing scandal.

According to Jeff Passan, both GM Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch are suspended for one year. This comes after the MLB investigated the team’s 2017 season and found evidence of sign-stealing. The suspension will conclude after the 2020 World Series.

UPDATE: In the Astros’ press conference, Astros’ owner Jim Crane announced that both Luhnow and Hinch will be dismissed from the team.

In terms of the organization’s general punishment, the MLB will also fine the team $5 million and take away both their first- and second-round picks for both 2020 and 2021.

The team’s system of stealing signs included an elaborate use of team equipment. The team placed a camera in center field at Minute Maid Park that projected a live feed to a television monitor. The monitor sat between the home dugout and clubhouse. Employees and players could watch the live feed for the catcher’s hand signals, then relay the sign to the batter by banging on a trash can. This included learning the catcher’s signal patterns, which was aided by the review room.

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Rippling Effect

Despite being limited in scope, the news will send waves throughout Major League Baseball.

Aside from the two prominent Astros employees, Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora will also face harsh punishment. Cora – the Astros’ bench coach at the time of the incident – was interviewed during the investigation. He declined to comment publicly about the situation. It was believed that he played a “key role” in the sign-stealing system as Hinch’s second-in-command.

During the investigation, Major League baseball also decided to look into an alleged incident with the Boston Red Sox in 2018 that included improper use of replay video to learn opposing team’s signs. This came one year after the Red Sox were fined due to an employee relaying signs to players through an Apple watch during a game against the New York Yankees.

Despite the investigation’s reach, the league does not plan discipline players who were on the Astros sign-stealing roster at the time. This includes then-outfielder Carlos Beltran, who is now the manager for the New York Mets.

But what is most troublesome to Commissioner Rob Manfred is in the direct and continual breaking of the rules after direct warnings. Manfred issued a memorandum on September 15th, 2017 stating that he would take future rule violations much more seriously. He also re-iterated that any use of electronic assistance to steal signs was illegal. That memorandum, however, appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

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Update On the Astros’ Press Conference

In response to the news, the Houston Astros addressed the media at 2:00 PM (CT) and provided a live-feed for those interested.

As mentioned previously, Owner Jim Crane has dismissed both GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch. In the interim, Crane himself will handle the day-to-day baseball operations. He did not provide any potential suitors for either position but mentioned that bench coach Josue Espada was capable of running the team as the interim coach. One internal candidate for the general manager position could be assistant GM Pete Putila, who interviewed for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ position this fall.

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