Posted on January 13, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine

Houston Astros AJ Hinch Jeff Luhnow
Image via chron.com

Major League Baseball has brought the swift hand of justice down on the Houston Astros for cheating during the 2017 World Series. After an investigation confirmed to MLB that the Astros used technology to steal signs while defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series, the league announced punishment for the transgression on Monday. At the top of the list was a year-long suspension for both manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow. Soon after MLB announced its decision, Astros manager Jim Crane announced that both Hinch and Luhnow have been fired.

In addition to Hinch and Luhnow being suspended, the Astros were handed a $5 million fine. That figure is the highest allowed under MLB rules. The Astros will also lose both their first- and second-round draft picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts. Finally, former GM Brandon Taubman will be barred from working for any major league organization. Taubman was with the Astros in 2017 but fired in October after making inappropriate comments toward a group of female reporters.

“I find that the conduct of the Astros, and its senior baseball operations executives, merits significant discipline,”MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred stated in his ruling, which is nine pages long. “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.”

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No current MLB players will be punished following the investigation into the Astros. However, Manfred admitted that the cheating was orchestrated by the players. Multiple players were named as helping to decode signs and relay them to the batter at the plate, often by banging on a trash can. Manfred concluded the Astros used this method during the 2017 postseason and part of the 2018 regular season but not in 2019.

Manfred’s report states that Hinch actually opposed players banging on trash cans to relay signs. Current Red Sox manager Alex Cora, Houston’s bench coach at the time, and current Mets manager Carlos Beltran, a player with the Astros at the time, helped spearhead the operation, according to the report. However, Manfred deemed Hinch was responsible for not bringing the issue to the attention of MLB of Houston’s front office. Meanwhile, Manfred found evidence contradicting Luhnow’s stance that he didn’t know about the sign-stealing endeavors. The Commissioner also held Luhnow responsible for the actions of everyone in the organization.

Beltran has been implicated but seemingly won’t face any punishment from MLB. Cora, on the other hand, may not be so lucky. The current Red Sox skipper is part of a separate investigation involving Boston stealing signs when they won the World Series in 2018. Manfred’s report implies that Cora will face punishment when the results of that investigation are revealed.

Meanwhile, Crane added his own twist to the story when he decided to fire Hinch and Luhnow after the Commissioner handed down his punishment. Crane stated he wants the Astros to “move forward with a clean slate.” Of course, that means the Astros are in the market for a new GM and manager with a month before players report for spring training.

As for Hinch and Luhnow, the suspension from Manfred will still take place despite both being let go by the Astros. Neither will be allowed to work until after the end of the 2020 World Series. Manfred also made it clear that “any future material violations” of MLB rules by Hinch or Luhnow will result in them being placed on the permanently ineligible list. However, whether any club would be willing to take a chance on them once their suspension is over remains to be seen.

In the end, this is a dark day for baseball. Manfred was forced to admit that the integrity of games involving the Astros was brought into question, which is why he levied some of the most significant punishments in league history. There is no doubt that damage has been done to the game, especially with the investigation into the Red Sox still pending.

It’s also a significant setback for the Astros, who have lost their manager, GM, and four draft picks. Crane is wise to part ways with Hinch and Luhnow permanently in hopes of moving on from this as soon as possible. However, it will forever have an impact on how the baseball world views their 2017 title and put them behind the curve heading into the 2020 season.

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