1️. The Big Story: “The Comish” Releases His Findings On The Houston Astros Sign Stealing Scandal
The baseball world was rocked on Monday, January 13th when the Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. released a nine-page report on the findings of an investigation of the 2017 Houston Astros Sign Stealing scandal. According to the report, the investigation was led by Bryan Seeley and Moira Weinberg of the Department of Investigations of Baseball, who both have substantial experience investigating baseball operations matters.
The MLB investigation covered the period from 2016 through the present . During the investigation, the Department of Investigations interviewed 68 witnesses, including 23 current and former Astros players. Some witnesses were interviewed multiple times. The Department of Investigations also reviewed tens of thousands of emails, Slack communications, text messages, video clips, and photographs. Lastly, the Astros fully cooperated with the investigation, producing all requested electronic communications and making all requested employees available for interviews.
From the report:
“At the beginning of the 2017 season, employees in the Astros’ video replay review room began using the live game feed from the center field camera to attempt to decode and transmit opposing teams’ sign sequences (i.e., which sign flashed by the catcher is the actual sign) for use when an Astros runner was on second base.”
The report lays out how the Astros set up the process of sign stealing:
“Once the sign sequence was decoded, a player in the video replay review room would act as a “runner” to relay the information to the dugout, and a person in the dugout would notify the players in the dugout or signal the sign sequence to the runner on second base, who in turn would decipher the catcher’s sign and signal to the batter from second base.
It wasn’t just the Houston Astros who were caught using electronics for sign stealing. Again from the investigation and the report:
“In August 2017, the Boston Red Sox were caught transmitting sign information from their replay review room to individuals in the dugout wearing smart watches.”
At the end of the report, the Commissioner leveled the following penalties for:
The Astros Players:
“I will not assess discipline against individual Astros players. I made the decision in September 2017 that I would hold a Club’s General Manager and Field Manager accountable for misconduct of this kind, and I will not depart from that decision. Assessing discipline of players for this type of conduct is both difficult and impractical. It is difficult because virtually all of the Astros’ players had some involvement or knowledge of the scheme, and I am not in a position based on the investigative record to determine with any degree of certainty every player who should be held accountable, or their relative degree of culpability. It is impractical given the large number of players involved, and the fact that many of those players now play for other Clubs.”
“…the Club will forfeit two regular first round selections and two regular second round selections in total. The forfeited draft selections will be removed from the selection order and all other selections will move up. (2)The Club will pay to my office a fine of $5 million, which is the highest allowable fine under the Major League Constitution.”
Jeff Luhnow (General Manager):
“Shall be suspended without pay for the period beginning on January 13, 2020 and ending on the day following the completion of the 2020 World Series. During the period of his suspension, Luhnow is prohibited from performing any services for or conducting any business on behalf of the Astros or any other Major League Club.
AJ Hinch (Manager):
“Shall be suspended without pay for the period beginning on January 13, 2020 and ending on the day following the completion of the 2020 World Series. During the period of his suspension, Hinch is prohibited from performing any services for or conducting any business on behalf of the Astros or any other Major League Club. Hinch must not be present in any Major League, Minor League, or Spring Training facilities, including stadiums, and he may not travel with or on behalf of the Club. If Hinch is found to engage in any future material violations of the Major League Rules, he will be placed on the permanently ineligible list.
Alex Cora (Houston Astro’s Bench Coach 2017):
“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 completes its investigation of the allegations that the Red Sox engaged in impermissible electronic sign stealing in 2018 while Cora was the manager.
Brandon Taubman (Houston Astro’s Assistant General Manager 2017):
“Shall be ineligible to perform services on behalf of any Major League Club, either as an employee or independent contractor, through the day following the completion of the 2020 World Series, at which time he will be eligible to apply to me for reinstatement. If Taubman is found to engage in any future material violations of the Major League Rules, he will be placed on the permanently ineligible list.
2️. The Impact
After the report was released, Houston Astros Owner Jim Crane held a press conference where the real fireworks came. Mr. Crane announced that both GM Jeff Luhnow and Houston Manager AJ Hinch were fired:
“There are two very important points I want to make today: I have higher standards for the city and the franchise, and I am going above and beyond MLB’s penalty,” Crane said in a news conference yesterday afternoon at Minute Maid Park. “Today, I have made the decision to dismiss AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow. We need to move forward with a clean slate, and the Astros will become a stronger organization because of this today.”
MLB on FOX reporter; senior writer, The Athletic; Ken Rosenthal shared a statement from fired GM Jeff Luhnow:
Jake Kaplan who also writes for The Athletic Houston shared a statement from fired Manager AJ Hinch: