MLB concluded its investigation into the sign-stealing scandal that engulfed the Houston Astros and their 2017 World Series win, with the penalties including a $5 million fine. It’s the highest allowable fine permitted under the Major League Constitution.
Perhaps more crippling to the Astros, however, general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch have each been suspended for one year. Their bans take effect immediately and run through the 2020 World Series.
Luhnow and Hinch are prohibited from visiting any Major League, Minor League or Spring Training facilities, including stadiums, and they may not travel with or on behalf of the Astros organization.
Former Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman also received a one-year suspension. He was fired by the club last October after making offensive and insensitive comments toward a group of female reporters after Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.
The Astros also forfeit their first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 MLB Drafts as part of the penalties.
“I find that the conduct of the Astros, and its senior baseball operations executives, merits significant discipline,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said as part of a 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.”
Manfred additionally wrote that although Luhnow denied knowledge of the replay room at Minute Maid Park being used to electronically steal signs, MLB’s investigation determined there was at least some awareness of the team’s actions.
Meanwhile, MLB’s ruling noted there was “absolutely no evidence” of Astros owner Jim Crane being aware of any of the misconduct. If Luhnow or Hinch be found to take part in “any future material violations” of Major League rules in the future, the offender will be placed on the permanently ineligible list.
In the wake of Mike Fiers going on the record to discuss the Astros’ sign-stealing, there were conflicting reports on whether the practice was carried throughout the 2017 World Series, when Houston defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games.
Manfred determined through the investigation that the Astros continued to utilize a camera affixed in center field to decode signs and relay the pitch selection by banging a trash can “throughout the postseason.”
“The allegations in the article created significant concern among many of our fans and other MLB Clubs regarding the adherence to our rules by those participating in our games, and the principles of sportsmanship and fair competition,” Manfred said.
“As I have previously stated, I treat these allegations with the utmost seriousness, and I instructed our Department of Investigations to conduct a thorough investigation. I believe transparency with our fans and our Clubs regarding what occurred is extremely important, and this report is my attempt to achieve that objective.”
While MLB found the illegal sign-stealing was largely orchestrated by players, former Astros bench coach and current Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora was identified as a key figure in the system setup.
Discipline for Cora was not announced as part of Monday’s ruling, but MLB is continuing with a separate investigation into the Red Sox amid allegations they used their video/replay room during the 2018 season to learn opponents’ sign sequences.
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