The Houston Astros have been placed on the naughty step for their role in a 2017/2018 sign-stealing scheme that has resulted in one of the largest disciplinary rulings in Major League Baseball history. The league released a 9-page statement detailing the results of their month’s long investigation, the result of former Astros player Mike Fiers blowing the whistle on the scheme to The Athletic.
While the MLB statement clears the Astros’ upper management and ownership of any knowledge of the cheating, the league penalty includes suspension of Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch until the end of the 202o season. The team must also pay a $5 million fine and loses its 2020 and 2021 first- and second-round draft picks. Astros owner Jim Crane took matters further by firing Luhnow and Hinch stating he wanted to move forward with a “clean slate.”
So if you’re head’s spinning just a little and you’re not sure why the GM and manager were fired if MLB said they knew nothing of the scheme and if you’re thought bubble is screaming, “What exactly is sign-stealing?” don’t worry. We got you covered.
First, sign stealing is not when you and some pals stole a street sign in your tiny hometown after chugging too many White Claw’s after prom. Sign-stealing, as it pertains to baseball, is a scheme that involves the team at bat using the live feed center field camera to tip the batter off as to what type of pitch that pitcher is going to throw. In the case of the Astros, they used the live feed to decode the catcher’s signs to the pitcher when they were the at-bat team. They then had a player or staff member on the bench bang on a garbage can loud enough for the batter to hear to indicate which kind of pitch was coming his way. A certain amount of bangs on the garbage can indicated which kind of pitch was going to be thrown.
Second, why suspend upper management if they supposedly knew nothing of the cheating? MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s statement said that while the scheme was “player-driven,” the upper management did nothing to stop it. Furthermore, the statement says, the culture at the Astros from the GM on down created an environment for players to run amuck. MLB has stated that no players will be disciplined since, according to Manfred, it would be “impractical given the large number of players involved, and the fact that many of those players now play for other Clubs.”
And while players are not being disciplined, today’s announcement is just the beginning of the story. Red Sox Manager Alex Cora is expected to be severely disciplined for his role in the scheme, both when he was the Astros’ bench coach in 2017 and for allegedly bringing a similar scheme to the Red Sox in 2018. Also implicated was Carlos Beltran, the current manager of the New York Mets, who played for the Astros in 2017. Because he was a player, he will not be disciplined.
When the ruling came down, fans immediately looked to the L.A. Dodgers, who lost to the Astros in the 2017 World Series, for a statement. Here’s what they had to say:
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) January 14, 2020
Now, what do you think the Dodgers really wanted to say? Maybe the Astros can tell us. They probably have a camera on the Dodgers’ thought bubble, too.