Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were fired by Astros owner Jim Crane after Major League Baseball suspended them for a year each following an investigation that confirmed Houston cheated using technology en route to winning the 2017 World Series.
Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a report Monday that detailed MLB’s investigation into alleged sign-stealing first reported by the Athletic in November. Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was bench coach for the Astros during the 2017 season, was implicated as a key to the scheme, one who set up initial sign-stealing efforts and escalated them by illegally using technology to monitor opponents during regular-season games at Houston’s Minute Maid Park in 2017.
Cora, however, has not yet been punished. The discipline will be “harsh,” ESPN reported, and is set to come after MLB completes its investigation into alleged illegal sign-stealing by the Red Sox in 2018, when Boston won the World Series.
The Astros were also fined $5 million, the maximum allowed by the league, according to the Athletic. They must forfeit their first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts, and ex-assistant Brandon Taubman, whose tirade directed at a female reporter resulted in his firing, has been placed on baseball’s ineligible list.
In a statement, Luhnow said he did not know rules were being broken, and implicated Cora in the scheme.
“I am not a cheater. Anybody who has worked closely with me during my 32-year career inside and outside baseball can attest to my integrity ... The sign-stealing initiative was not planned or directed by baseball management; the trash-can banging was driven and executed by players, and the video decoding of signs originated and was executed by lower-level employees working with the bench coach.”
Hinch took a concilatory tone.
“I regret being connected to these events, am disappointned in our club’s actions within this timeline, and I accept the commissioner’s decision ... While the evidence consistently showed I didn’t endorse or participate in the sign stealing practices, I failed to stop them and I am deeply sorry.”
MLB spoke with Cora in November during its investigation into the Astros, whose alleged cheating was first reported on Nov. 12 by the Athletic.
Astros used an elaborate system involving a center-field camera to pick up signs and trash cans to convey the findings to batters during the 2017 regular season.
Cora was, according to the Athletic, a “mastermind” of the sign-stealing set-up.
The league’s report says Cora, as Houston’s bench coach, had an employee install the monitor that players would watch to determine a sign. The player would then bang a trash can to alert the batter which pitch was coming.
The report says that the scheme was “player-driven,” with the exception of Cora’s involvement.
MLB will not punish any player. That includes Carlos Beltran, who played for the Astros in 2017. He was named Mets manager last fall.
The Athletic first reported last week that the Red Sox illegally used the video replay room to steal signs, then used signals and baserunners to convey them to batters during the 2018 season.
“It’s cheating,” a member of the team, which won the World Series, told The Athletic. “If you’re using a camera to zoom in on the crotch of the catcher, to break down the sign system, and then take that information and give it out to the runner, then he doesn’t have to steal it.”
Sign stealing is allowed in baseball, but the use of techology to faciliate it is not.
In response to the report that the Red Sox cheated in 2018, the team released a statement last week: “We were recently made aware of allegations suggesting the inappropriate use of our video replay room. We take these allegations seriously and will fully cooperate with MLB as they investigate the matter.”