NEW YORK – Major League Baseball brought the hammer down on the Houston Astros on Monday for stealing signs during their 2017 World Series championship season.
Commissioner Rob Manfred handed manager A.J. Hinch and general Jeff Luhnow one-season suspensions, fined the club the maximum allowable amount of $5 million and took away the Astros’ first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.
“I find that the conduct of the Astros, and its senior baseball operations executives, merits significant discipline,” Manfred said as part of the 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.”
In November, reports first surfaced in The Athletic that the Astros had stolen signs using a center-field camera during the 2017 regular season. Former bench coach Alex Cora was identified as the mastermind of the scheme.
Cora, now the manager of the Boston Red Sox, was not disciplined, but the report indicates he could still face penalties when MLB concludes its investigation into allegations of sign stealing by the Red Sox in 2018.
Hinch’s suspension is the longest for an MLB manager since Pete Rose accepted a lifetime ban in 1989.
The commissioner’s report revealed no evidence that Astros owner Jim Crane was aware of the sign stealing.
“Crane is extraordinarily troubled and upset by the conduct of members of his organization, fully supported my investigation and provided unfettered access to any and all information requested,” Manfred said.
In addition, former Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman was suspended for one year for making insensitive and offensive comments to a group of female reporters during the 2019 American League Championship Series.
The suspensions of Hinch, Luhnow and Taubman begin immediately and end on the day following the completion of the 2020 World Series.
–Field Level Media