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Takeaways from MLB’s report on the Astros’ sign-stealing

Alex Cora was bench coach for the Astros before becoming Red Sox manager.
Alex Cora was bench coach for the Astros before becoming Red Sox manager.file/Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Red Sox manager Alex Cora was implicated in the Houston Astros cheating scandal, which was detailed in a report released Monday by Major League Baseball following its investigation.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were each suspended for one season for their roles in the scheme. Team owner Jim Crane fired both of them following the announcement of the suspension.

The MLB report, a nine-page document, was the result of an investigation launched in November after a story in The Athletic said the Astros illegally used technology to steal signs during the 2017 season, when they won the World Series.


Here are the biggest takeaways from the report, which was authored by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred:

Christopher L. Gasper: Astros punishment shows sign-stealing days are over — and the Red Sox are next

■  Cora, who was Houston’s bench coach before becoming manager of the Red Sox, helped create the systems the Astros used to illegally steal signs, which included banging on a trash can to indicate pitch selection to batters.

■  Cora is not being punished yet because MLB is conducting an investigation into allegations of a similar practice by the Red Sox in 2018.

■  The sign-stealing started at the beginning of the 2017 season, which ended with the Astros winning the World Series.

■  Cora was an exception in the scheme, which otherwise was largely conducted by players.

■  The Astros continued to use their system in 2017 even after the Red Sox were caught using electronics to help steal signs and MLB warned all clubs against the practice.

■  No determination was made as to the effectiveness of the sign stealing in gaining a competitive advantage.

■  Crane did not know about the practice, but was said to be “extraordinarily troubled” by it.


■  Luhnow denied having knowledge of the scheme, but was held accountable because MLB deemed “it is the job of the general manager to be aware of the activities of his staff and his players, and to ensure that those activities comport with both standards of conduct set by Club ownership and MLB rules.”

■  Hinch knew about the scheme, but did not create it or participate in it.

Cora’s involvement

The report sums up Cora’s role as: “Cora was involved in developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit signs. Cora participated in both schemes, and through his active participation, implicitly condoned the players’ conduct. I will withhold determining the appropriate level of discipline for Cora until after the DOI [Department of Investigations] completes its investigation of the allegations that the Red Sox engaged in impermissible electronic sign stealing in 2018 while Cora was the manager.”

Here are the details on Cora’s involvement:

■  Cora began calling the replay review room “early in the season” in 2017 to get information on signs. Sometimes the information was communicated via text message to a staffer wearing a smart watch on the bench or a nearby phone.


The plan as described is similar to the scheme the Sox allegedly used during the 2018 season, which is being investigated

It is against MLB rules to use electronic devices to steal signs on the bench; the Red Sox were fined an undisclosed amount in September 2017 for using an Apple Watch to relay sign information. That fine prompted Manfred to issue a memo to all teams clarifying the rules around technology: “All Clubs were put on notice as of September 15, 2017, that any use of electronic equipment to steal signs would be dealt with more severely by my office.” Monday’s report explains how the Astros knowingly used schemes involving technology after receiving the memo.


■  Two months into the 2017 season, Cora arranged for a staffer to install a monitor right outside the Astros dugout that showed the center-field camera feed. Players normally used the feed in-game to adjust their swings. But the Astros used it to decode signs. Players would determine a sign and send a message to the hitter by banging on a trash can.

Takeaway: It means Cora had an outsized role in the scandal . The scheme is described as “player driven.”

■  The investigation did not find that the Astros used the banging scheme in 2018; but the replay room was used to decode signs and send them to the dugout. That process stopped sometime during the season “because the players no longer believed it was effective.”

Takeaway: After Cora left the team to take over as Red Sox manager, the use of the replay room dissipated. The investigation didn’t find evidence that the Astros cheated during the 2018 postseason.

What about players? ■  The commissioner says in the report that he will not discipline individual players because of his September 2017 decision to “hold a Club’s General Manager and Field Manager accountable for misconduct of this kind.”


■  Astros players told investigators that had they been told to stop by Hinch, they would have stopped.

■  Manfred said that because Cora was “an active participant in the scheme” and that Hinch was aware, players may have thought the behavior was being encouraged.

Hinch’s role

■ Hinch disapproved of Cora’s sign-stealing scheme, but admitted to investigators that he did not stop Cora from executing it or tell players not to participate. He said the scheme was “wrong and distracting.” He did specifically voice issues with using the replay room for surveillance.

■ Twice, Hinch damaged the monitor near the dugout that was used for the banging scheme.

■ Manfred writes that there is “no justification for Hinch’s failure to act” and that he should have brought the issues to Luhnow.

The Astros’ culture

■ The ex-Astros GM denied knowing about the banging scheme — something the investigation also confirmed — but evidence was discovered that showed Luhnow “had some knowledge” of efforts to use the replay room to steal signs.

■ Manfred said he holds Luhnow “personally accountable” for the Astros’ conduct.

■ While investigating alleged sign-stealing, MLB also looked into an incident during an ALCS celebration where ex-assistant GM Brandon Taubman made inappropriate comments to a female reporter. Taubman was eventually fired.

Manfred said in the report that Taubman’s actions were the result of the Astros’ culture, calling it “insular” and “very problematic,” criticizing how the organization treats its employees, deals with other clubs, and works with the media.


“The baseball operations department’s insular culture — one that valued and rewarded results over other considerations — combined with a staff of individuals who often lacked direction or sufficient oversight, led, at least in part, to the Brandon Taubman incident, the Club’s admittedly inappropriate and inaccurate response to that incident, and finally, to an environment that allowed the conduct described in this report to have occurred.”

Katie McInerney can be reached at katie.mcinerney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @k8tmac. Follow Matt Pepin on Twitter at @mattpep15.