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MLB hands down severe discipline for Astros’ sign-stealing scandal

A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow are being suspended for the season and the Astros will lose first and second-round picks in 2020 and ‘21.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Houston Astros Photo by Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

MLB has handed down severe discipline as punishment for the Astros developing a sign-stealing program and utilizing it during their run to a World Series victory in 2017. The league announced the punishments on Monday afternoon through a statement from commissioner Rob Manfred.

The discipline includes:

  • Season-long suspensions (without pay) for general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch.
  • Losses of their first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.
  • A $5 million fine.
  • Placement of former assistant general manager Brandon Taubman — who was fired by the Astros last fall following his public harassment of female reporters — on the league’s ineligible list through the end of the 2020 season.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was Houston’s bench coach in 2017, is named in the statement as the only staff member actively involved in a sign-stealing program that was “player-driven and player-executed.” However, any discipline levied upon Cora, who led Boston to a World Series victory in 2018, will be determined after the league’s investigation into a separate sign-stealing program instituted by the Red Sox (reported on last week by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich) is complete. Considering the way Cora is implicated in the statement regarding the Astros investigation, it figures that Cora’s punishment could be even more severe than those levied against Hinch and Luhnow.

Despite the severe punishments for Luhnow and Hinch, Manfred’s disciplinary decision is more related to their ignorance and failure to end the program than it is for their actual roles in the controversy. Manfred wrote that the “investigation revealed no evidence to suggest that Luhnow was aware of the banging scheme,” while Hinch “neither devised the banging scheme nor participated in it,” even attempting to destroy the replay monitor on two separate occasions in order to signal his disapproval. But Manfred writes that Hinch did not make a vocal effort to stop the scheme, and that type of complicit behavior is obviously deserving of discipline. Luhnow and Hinch will effectively be on probation if and when they return from these suspensions, as Manfred writes that both will be placed on the permanently ineligible list if they are “found to engage in any future material violations of the Major League Rules.”

Manfred quickly cleared owner Jim Crane of wrongdoing in his statement, saying that Crane “is extraordinarily troubled and upset by the conduct of members of his organization, fully supported my investigation, and provided unfettered access to any and all information requested.”

The Astros will now have to decide on an interim GM and manager for the 2020 season. Assistant GM Pete Putila is a logical candidate to hold down the fort for Luhnow, while bench coach Joe Espada seems likely to get the nod as the interim manager.

***UPDATE***

Astros owner Jim Crane announced at a press conference earlier today that both Luhnow and Hinch were both fired due to the findings of MLB’s investigation.