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Major League Baseball hammers Astros in cheating scandal; A.J. Hinch, GM fired

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Jeff Luhnow holding a baseball bat Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow

After the Boston Red Sox were caught using an Apple Watch to help steal signs in 2017, Commissioner Rob Manfred warned all 30 teams that "future violations of this type will be subject to more serious sanctions".

The GM told Major League Baseball he was unaware of the system, but Manfred held him accountable for the team's actions.

However, Manfred determined in his ruling that no Astros players on the 2017 team would be suspended because "assessing discipline of players for this type of conduct is both hard and impractical".

The Houston Astros have been hit with a series of huge penalties after a Major League Baseball investigation concluded the club cheated during its 2017 World Series winning season.

The investigation found no use of illicit technology during the 2019 season.

"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", Manfred said. He added that bench coach Joe Espada is very capable considering he has interviewed with several teams for managerial positions. "We need to move forward with a clean slate".

The punishments included season-long bans for Hinch and Luhnow, rendering them useless to Crane for the upcoming season. Manfred nevertheless held the two responsible, pointing to a September 15, 2017, memo regarding the Red Sox's illicit use of an Apple Watch that promised severe discipline for teams that run afoul of MLB's rules against using technology during games. He moved to the Detroit Tigers for 2018, and is now with the Oakland Athletics.

Former assistant GM Brandon Taubman, who made insensitive remarks to women reporters after the ALCS, was suspended for one year.

While the banging scheme was discontinued before the 2018 season, Manfred wrote, "the Astros' replay review room staff continued, at least for part of the 2018 season, to decode signs using the live center field camera feed, and to transmit the signs to the dugout through in-person communication". "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".

The sign information would then be relayed from the video replay room via text message or cell phone to then-bench coach Alex Cora and then signaled to a runner on second base, who would signal the batter.

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