After a three-month investigation into the Houston Astros, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred announced his findings and leveled record punishments for their electronic sign stealing.
The Astros were fined $5 million (highest amount permitted), stripped of first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 MLB Drafts, and suspensions for general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch. Astros owner Jim Crane subsequently fired Luhnow and Hinch.
In his nine-page report, Manfred determined Crane was not aware of the misconduct, and that it was driven by players. However, players weren’t punished in exchange for immunity during the investigative interviews.
While that irked some — including several Los Angeles Dodgers who were on the team that fell short in the 2017 World Series — it now appears the Astros front office was more involved than previously conveyed.
According to Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal, Luhnow was shown the beginnings of a sign-stealing program in 2016:
On Sept. 22, 2016, an intern in the Houston Astros organization showed general manager Jeff Luhnow a PowerPoint presentation that featured the latest creation by the team’s high-tech front office: an Excel-based application programmed with an algorithm that could decode the opposing catchers’ signs. It was called “Codebreaker.”
It’s also been determined the Astros’ cheating extended to road games, with director of advance information Tom Koch-Weser asserting Luhnow would
But everything started with Codebreaker, and the use of it to steal signs continued into 2018—not just at home, but also on the road.
Koch-Weser also said that Luhnow sometimes entered the Astros’ video room during road games and made comments such as, “You guys Codebreaking?”
Accusations of Luhnow and others in the Astros front office having knowledge of the cheating has yet to be addressed by Manfred. When speculation ran rampant on social media that Astros players also utilized wearable devices, the league issued a statement to explain their investigation did not find any evidence of that.
Nevertheless, public perception won’t easily be changed, and the measure of that impact moving forward is difficult to measure.
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