LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch on Monday were both suspended for one year by Major League Baseball for cheating during their 2017 title run in which they beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.
An MLB investigation determined that the team used camera technology to cheat that season by stealing signs.
The team will also be docked its first and second round picks in both 2020 and 2021 and have to pay a $5 million fine. Both Luhnow and Hinch are suspended through the end of the 2020 season. However, in a news conference Monday afternoon, Astros owner Jim Crane announced that both men had been fired.
It was first reported in November that the MLB had launched an investigation into accusations from former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers that the team was using technology to steal signs.
The Astros beat the Dodgers in a grinding seven games to win the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium.
In November, Fiers, who was a pitcher on that championship team, told The Athletic that the team used a center-field camera to steal signs. Fiers told The Athletic the Astros would then communicate to hitters what pitches were coming by banging out a drum code on the dugout.
Such a practice runs afoul of MLB’s rules against using technology for an advantage.
In its report released Monday, the MLB confirmed that the Astros used the center-field camera from the live game feed to communicate signs to players.
“At the beginning of the 2017 season, employees in the Astros’ video replay review room began using the live game feed from the center field camera to attempt to decode and transmit opposing teams’ sign sequences (i.e., which sign flashed by the catcher is the actual sign) for use when an Astros runner was on second base,” the report reads. “Once the sign sequence was decoded, a player in the video replay review room would act as a “runner” to relay the information to the dugout, and a person in the dugout would notify the players in the dugout or signal the sign sequence to the runner on second base, who in turn would decipher the catcher’s sign and signal to the batter from second base.”
The report did not specifically mention either the Dodgers or the 2017 World Series.
The practice continued into a portion of the 2018 season.
“At some point during the 2018 season, the Astros stopped using the replay review room to decode signs because the players no longer believed it was effective,” the MLB wrote.
MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred did not punish any individual Astros players, but wrote in the report that “virtually all of the Astros’ players had some involvement or knowledge of the scheme.”
“Assessing discipline of players for this type of conduct is both difficult and impractical,” Manfred wrote. “It is difficult because virtually all of the Astros’ players had some involvement or knowledge of the scheme, and I am not in a position based on the investigative record to determine with any degree of certainty every player who should be held accountable, or their relative degree of culpability. It is impractical given the large number of players involved, and the fact that many of those players now play for other Clubs.”
In a statement back in November, the Astros – who in 2019 fell short of another World Series title against the Washington Nationals — said they have begun an investigation into the matter in cooperation with the MLB. At the time, Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said it would sound like “sour grapes” to say much about it, but also acknowledged their advance team talked about it and speculated about it at the time.
“We’ll see what Major League Baseball comes back with and kind of go from there,” Friedman said.
The Dodgers issued a statement on Twitter Monday night that read:
“All clubs have been asked by Major League Baseball not to comment on today’s punishment of the Houston Astros as it’s inappropriate to comment on discipline imposed on another club. The Dodgers have also been asked not to comment on any wrongdoing during the 2017 World Series and will have no further comment at this time.”