(NEW YORK, NY) – Following a Major League Baseball investigation into sign stealing by the Boston Red Sox in 2017, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Robert D Manfred, Jr, issued a memorandum to all 30 clubs stating that “the General Manager and Field Manager of Clubs would be held accountable for any violations of the rules in the future.”
Today, Manfred made good on his promise and suspended without pay Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch for the 2020 season. The pair were found to have known about the scheme concocted by then bench coach Alex Cora, to use the Astros’ centre field camera and replay technology to steal signs from their opposing teams.
It is not against league rules to steal signs, but it is a violation of MLB Regulation 1-1 to use electronic methods by which to steal signs and/or conveying that information.
For his part, Luhnow has denied any knowledge of the scheme put in place by Cora, the current Boston manager and who was also implicated in a 2018 Red Sox sign stealing incident.
“The efforts involving the replay review room staff were mentioned in at least two emails sent to Luhnow, and there is conflicting evidence about conversations with Luhnow on the topic,” Manfred stated. “Regardless of the level of Luhnow’s actual knowledge, the Astros’ violation of rules in 2017 and 2018 is attributable, in my view, to a failure by the leaders of the baseball operations department and the Field Manager to adequately manage the employees under their supervision, to establish a culture in which adherence to the rules is ingrained in the fabric of the organization, and to stop bad behavior as soon as it occurred.”
Shortly after the announcement of the findings and the suspension of Luhnow and Hinch, the owner of the Houston Astros, Jim Crane, held a news conference at Minute Maid Park to announced that the two managers were being dismissed from the Astros organization.
“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. “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.”
Further to the suspensions, the league also fined the Astros organization $5 million, the highest fine allowed under the Major League Constitution, and the team will forfeit its first- and second-round picks in each of the 2020 and 2021 drafts
Additionally, former Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman was deemed to be “ineligible to perform services on behalf of any Major League club, either as an employee or independent contractor” by Manfred.
The penalty stems from an incident after the 2019 ALCS in which Taubman made “inappropriate conduct” toward female reporters in the Astros clubhouse. Taubman was dismissed by the Astros last October.
“The day following the completion of the 2020 World Series, (Taubman) will be eligible to apply to me for reinstatement,” said Manfred. “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.”
Manfred is reserving disciplinary action against Cora “until after the (Department of Investigations) completes its investigation of the allegations that the Red Sox engaged in impermissible electronic sign stealing in 2018 while Cora was the manager.”