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.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.