Astros Manager/GM First Suspended Then Fired
Heads rolled today in Houston after a Major League Baseball investigation found manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow didn’t create the scheme to steal the signs of opposing pitchers and relay them to the dugout, but they knew about it and did nothing about it. Both men were suspended by MLB for a year, but Astros owner Jim Crane went a step further and fired them both.
“…the Astros will become a stronger organization because of this today. You can be confident that we will not have this happen again on my watch,” Crane said, after apologizing to fans, sponsors and the city of Houston, but not to Astros’ opponents.
The report from MLB says Luhnow claimed no part of the plan to steal signs.
“Although Luhnow denies having any awareness that his replay review room staff was decoding and transmitting signs, there is both documentary and testimonial evidence that indicates Luhnow had some knowledge of those efforts, but he did not give it much attention.” — MLB report, page 6.
The plan was simple.
“One or more players watched the live feed of the center field camera on the monitor, and after decoding the sign, a player would bang a nearby trash can with a bat to communicate the upcoming pitch type to the batter. (Witnesses explained that they initially experimented with communicating sign information by clapping, whistling, or yelling, but that they eventually determined that banging a trash can was the preferred method of communication.)” –MLB report page 2.
Crane held a news conference shortly after the report and yearlong suspensions were handed down to Hinch and Luhnow. The owner said MLB’s warning from two years ago after the Red Sox were busted using smart watches to relay signs caused him to go to his GM.
“(I) said ‘Listen. I hope we’re not doing any of this. If we are, you guys need to knock it off.’ So I did warn him and it’s in the report,” Crane told an assembled group of reporters.
The Red Sox may be penalized again, as current manager Alex Cora was named as the organizer of the Astros’ use of bangs on a trash can to relay signs when he was the bench coach for the Astros in 2017.
The Los Angeles Dodgers lost to the Red Sox in 2018 with Cora as the new manager and to Houston in 2017. Crane dismissed the notion that Houston’s win is tainted.
“I think there’s nothing that’s clear to suggest it affected the outcome. I think you could be all over the place with this, but listen… as I said before we we’ve got a great team, um, you know, I feel we had the best team on the field then. I thought we had a great team in ’18 and things didn’t fall our way,” Crane said. That year, Boston beat Houston to advance to the World Series.
Crane then claimed the scheme “came from the bottom up” and said “checks and balances” would be implemented to prevent a recurrence. He then contradicted himself and said employees were “taking direction from senior, either players or coaches. In my opinion it’s going to be difficult to hold them to the same standard as the leaders.”
No announcement on punishment for Cora has been announced.
Update: MLB also fined Houston $5 million and took away the team’s first two draft picks in each of the next two years.
Alex Cora and the Red Sox parted ways the following day.