Major League Baseball is bringing down the hammer on the Houston Astros following an investigation into allegations that they used cameras to steal signs from opposing teams during their 2017 championship season. The league announced that Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch have each been suspended without pay for the 2020 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million and will have to forfeit their first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 MLB Drafts.
Former Astros Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman, who was fired in October for making inappropriate comments to a group of female reporters, has been suspended for one year as well. While he is not currently employed by any team, the suspension means he will not be allowed to work in baseball during that time.
"I find that the conduct of the Astros, and its senior baseball operations executives, merits significant discipline," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "I base this finding on the fact that the club's senior baseball operations executives were given express notice in September 2017 that I would hold them accountable for violations of our policies covering sign stealing, and those individuals took no action to ensure that the club's players and staff complied with those policies during the 2017 postseason and the 2018 regular season."
Manfred said that while it is impossible to determine the impact their cheating had on specific games, it harmed the image of league.
"The conduct described herein has caused fans, players, executives at other MLB clubs, and members of the media to raise questions about the integrity of games in which the Astros participated. And while it is impossible to determine whether the conduct actually impacted the results on the field, the perception of some that it did causes significant harm to the game."
While the investigation determined that the cheating was player-driven, no players were suspended. The league's report stated that former bench coach Alex Cora, who is now the manager of the Boston Red Sox, was involved in organizing the sign-stealing operation. While he was not disciplined, the report stated that he could face punishment following an investigation into allegations the Red Sox cheated during their 2018 championship season.
News of the Astros' cheating scheme broke last year after former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers detailed the plot to The Athletic. He said the team used a camera positioned in the outfield to steal signs from the catcher. Whenever a catcher called for an off-speed pitch, another player would bang a trashcan to let the hitter know an off-speed pitch was coming.
After the punishments were announced, Astros owner Jim Crane announced that Hinch and Luhnow have been fired. Crane plans to take over baseball operations while he searches for a new general manager. Astros bench coach Joe Espada, who has been with the team since 2018, will be the team's interim manager.