After a long speculation period, Major League Baseball has finally handed down penalties to the Houston Astros for their sign-stealing scandal.
In arguably the harshest ruling of his tenure, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and his office gashed the Astros organization with five massive penalties. The penalties include the following:
- A one-year suspension for GM Jeff Luhnow
- A one-year suspension for manager A.J. Hinch
- The forfeiture of first and second-round picks in the years 2020 and 2021
- A $5 million fine, the maximum amount allowed under MLB rules
- The placement of former Astros assistant GM Brandan Taubman on baseball’s ineligible list
The suspension for manager A.J. Hinch marks the first since Pete Rose accepted a lifetime ban. The penalty for Hinch comes more so from the lack of action as opposed to action taken. Former Astros bench coach Alex Cora was said to be the mastermind behind the electronic sign-stealing, but no action has been taken against the now Boston Red Sox manager yet. The suspension for Luhnow marks the sixth-longest mark for an executive. It is worth noting that no player has been handed any penalties.
UPDATE, 4:04 ET: The Astros have fired both Hinch and Luhnow.
The entire scenario stems from 2017 and the use of technology to illegally steal signs during home games. When taking a look at the 2017 World Series, there was a notable difference between Houston’s batting, a lot to do with the sign-stealing set-up. The Astros saw nearly a 200 point difference in their team batting average during home games compared to away games during the World Series. The sign-stealing had a mix of a camera in center field and various sounds and actions that would notify the hitters of what pitch is on the way.
It marked perhaps one of the more turbulent scandals of 2017 that also included former Atlanta Braves GM John Coppolella earning a lifetime ban. That included the loss of 13 international prospects and a third-round draft pick loss in 2018. The 2017 season also included the St. Louis Cardinals losing their top two draft picks and $2 million, ironically to Houston.
A New-Age Form of Stealing
Sign stealing in the world of baseball is as old as the sport itself. But the advent of technology in the game has now changed the way some teams steal signs and the legality of it all. All the electronics in the game have caused heavy suspicion across most teams. With what the Astros did in 2017, the suspicions have now become as real as the game itself.
Even though 2017 highlighted the electronic sign-stealing saga, it can all be traced back to the year 2014 in replay rooms across the sport. With what has transpired in recent seasons, MLB has gone through several changes to combat electronic sign-stealing with even more changes to come for a third straight season.