Major Astros Sign-Stealing Punishment: Luhnow, Hinch suspended for one year

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UPDATE: Hinch and Luhnow have been fired.

UPDATE: A few minutes ago MLB also released the full report on its investigation. It’s damning to say the least. You can read the report in its entirety here.

2:07 PM: Major League Baseball has just handed down major punishment in the Astros sign-stealing scandal. Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic report that Rob Manfred has issued the following sanctions:

  • A one-year suspension for general manager Jeff Luhnow;
  • A one-year suspension for manager A.J. Hinch;
  • The forfeitures of first- and second-round draft picks in both 2020 and ’21;
  • A fine of $5 million, the maximum allowed under MLB’s constitution;
  • The placement of former Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman on baseball’s ineligible list.

Taubman, you will recall, was fired by the Astros in November following his behavior in the wake of the Astros’ Game 6 victory over the Yankees, in which he shouted at a group of three female reporters, “Thank god we got [Roberto] Osuna! I’m so [expletive] glad we got Osuna!”

No players have been disciplined. Alex Cora, then the bench coach of the Astors and now the manager of the Boston Red Sox, will be punished after MLB completes its investigations into the recent allegations surrounding the 2018 Red Sox stealing signs.

This is the most serious discipline leveled upon a team, or on its manager or executives, in recent memory. The only thing comparable was MLB permanently banning Braves general manager John Coppolella in November 2017 for obstructing the league’s investigation into international signing irregularities.

This punishment marks the end — for now anyway — of the scandal which began in early November Rosenthal and Drellich reported that the Astros had, in the 2017 season, employed a sophisticated sign-stealing process involving the use of a video camera in center field at Minute Maid Park. In the article, multiple people who worked for the team that season, including current A’s pitcher Mike Fiers, confirmed the existence of the sign-stealing to The Athletic. Subsequently, video evidence of the sign-stealing scheme was uncovered, in which one could clearly hear Astros players banging loudly on a trash can to signal pitches to their teammate up at bat.

The Athletic reported that the Astros’ system was originally set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team.” As such, it was understood by the Astros players — and anyone reading the report — that other teams were using sign-stealing schemes of their own. It also followed that, since Astros players and coaches would inevitably be traded or would sign on with other teams, that the Astros’ scheme would become known by other teams. As such, it made sense that the Astros were not worried about their scheme being found out by other teams, probably because they knew other teams had schemes of their own.

In the wake of the allegations, and in light of the likelihood that this was a league-wide problem, Major League Baseball initially said that it did not plan to limit its investigation to the Astros. Then MLB reversed course and said that he would only be investigating Houston. Once the allegations regarding the Red Sox came out, that position became untenable for Major League Baseball, suggesting that this punishment is just the end of the beginning of the story as opposed to the true end.

In the meantime, the Astros need a new manager. And a new general manager. And we will now begin a major, major reckoning about cheating in Major League Baseball.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.