Major League Baseball has handed down tough punishments to the Houston Astros for illegally stealing signs during the 2017 season.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred clearly wants to send a powerful message with his punishment for the Houston Astros.
The Astros, under investigation for using cameras to illegally steal signs during their World Series championship season in 2017, will pay a heavy price for their conduct. MLB has announced that Houston’s punishment includes a one-year suspension for General Manager Jeff Luhnow, a one-year suspension for Manager A.J. Hinch, the loss of their first and second round draft picks in 2020 and 2021, and a fine of $5 million, the maximum amount allowed under MLB’s Constitution.
Update: shortly after MLB announced their punishments, Astros owner Jim Crane announced that the club had fired Hinch and Luhnow.
The Astros were accused of stealing pitching signs during the 2017 season by routing the feed from Minute Maid’s center field camera to a screen in the tunnel leading to the clubhouse. People would watch the video, decode the signs, and communicate their messages to the hitters by banging on trash cans.
Sign stealing has long been part of the game and is considered legal when players do it themselves, but becomes illegal when technology gets involved. Still, it’s becoming clear that teams have been using technology and to venturing into the gray-area of the rules to win. The Boston Red Sox are also being investigated for cheating during the 2018 season and the New York Yankees have also been accused of sign-stealing. Executives across the league say that there are many others.
Alex Cora is said to be the mastermind behind the sign-stealing in Houston. He was the team’s bench coach at the time, but went on to become the manager of the Red Sox in 2018. MLB will determine Cora’s punishment once they complete their investigation into the Red Sox.
The league has sought to keep up with sign stealing and starting in the 2018 postseason, they placed a league representative in the video replay room to ensure those screens weren’t being used illegally. But those representatives don’t always do their job, and even when they do, teams are finding new ways to use on-field tech. No matter what they do, it seems like the league is one step behind the technology.
Additionally noted in commissioner Rob Manfred’s report is punishment for former Astros Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman. Taubman was fired by the club after a clubhouse outburst during the playoffs where he shouted at female reporters about the signing of a player who had been suspended for domestic violence. Taubman, though not currently employed, also received a season-long suspension and will have to apply for reinstatement with the league.