Houston Astros fire GM, manager after hefty MLB sign-stealing penalty

Team fined $5 million, forfeits 2020, 2021 draft picks

The Houston Astros fired their manager and general manager after Major League Baseball imposed historically high penalties on the team for its role in a sign-stealing controversy during the 2017 World Series.

In addition, Houston is also forfeiting its first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts, and was fined $5 million, the maximum fine allowed in Major League Baseball.

Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the punishment Monday. Astros owner Jim Crane announced the firings of Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch in a Monday afternoon news conference.

Luhnow and Hinch had been suspended without pay under MLB’s punishment.

Former Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman, who was dismissed by the club in October after he made offensive and insensitive comments directed at a group of female reporters at the conclusion of the American League Championship Series, has also been suspended for one year.

Taubman is not currently employed by a club.

“I find that the conduct of the Astros, and its senior baseball operations executives, merits significant discipline,” Manfred said in the nine-page ruling. “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.”

Read the report here:

The report says the illegal sign-stealing was mostly player-driven, though it states former bench coach Alex Cora, now the manager of the Boston Red Sox, was involved in setting it up.

Cora was not disciplined as part of this investigation, but the report states he could face penalties at the conclusion of the ongoing investigation into allegations of illegal sign-stealing by the Red Sox during the 2018 season.

The investigation revealed “absolutely no evidence” Crane was aware of any of the team’s conduct.

Luhnow and Hinch are prohibited from performing any services for or business on behalf of the Astros or any other club. They will not be allowed in any major league, minor league or spring training facilities including stadiums.

MLB began its investigation into the allegations against the Astros in November after a report from The Athletic highlighted the club’s illegal sign-stealing system from 2017, the year the Astros won the franchise’s first World Series title. Athletics pitcher Mike Fiers, who was a member of the Astros at the time, was quoted in the story, as were three other unnamed sources who were inside the organization in 2017.

Fiers said the Astros were using a camera positioned in the outfield to detect the signs, which were then relayed to hitters by somebody banging on a trash can in an area between the dugout and the clubhouse so they knew which pitches were coming.