"Neither one of them started this, but neither one of them did anything about it," Houston Astros owner Jim Crane said on Monday
The Houston Astros have fired two top officials today following an investigation by Major League Baseball into claims the team illegally stole pitching signs during a season that culminated in a championship.
On Monday, the Astros fired general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch after the league confirmed the team used cameras to steal pitching signs during the 2017 season. While the MLB suspended both Luhnow and Hinch for 2020, Astros owner Jim Crane opted to go a step further in firing them both.
“Neither one of them started this, but neither one of them did anything about it,” Crane said, according to ESPN. “We need to move forward with a clean slate.”
ESPN reports that former Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who is now manager of the Boston Red Sox, is expected to be disciplined soon. The Red Sox are also being investigated by the MLB after being accused of stealing signs during their 2018 championship run.
The Astros also received a $5 million fine and will lose their first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021 as part of their punishment.
The investigation kicked off in November when former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers detailed to The Athletic how Houston used a hidden video feed to observe opponents’ pitching signs.
Stealing signs has long been a part of baseball, and the practice typically involves a team watching the hand signs used by an opposing team, such as those between a catcher and a pitcher. If a team can interpret what those signs mean, it can give them an advantage when their batter is at the plate.
For instance, if a team figures out that the opposing catcher is calling for a fastball when he raises two fingers to his pitcher, their hitter can benefit from knowing what pitch is coming.
According to ESPN, stealing signs isn’t prohibited in the MLB, but it is seen as bad etiquette. But it is prohibited to use electronic equipment to help steal signs.
Astros players, the investigation found, used a camera mounted in center-field to watch opponents’ signals. They would then communicate the upcoming pitch to their hitter by making a loud noise, such as banging on a garbage can (you can watch an example here).
According to ESPN, the scandal was largely player-driven and Luhnow and Hinch did not directly participate in the scheme. Hinch even tried to damage the television the players were using to watch signs.
Many on social media were not satisfied with the punishment, and many called for the Astros’ 2017 title to be rescinded. Some of the most vocal were fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who lost to the Astros when the World Series went to seven games in 2017.
“2017 was the last chance I had to watch the Dodgers win a World Series championship before my dad passed away,” wrote one Twitter user. “This was the only thing my dad ever wanted. So before you tell someone ‘it’s just a sport’ do us all a favor and shut the f— up.”
“The championship itself – they went seven games with the Yankees and Dodgers – is forever tainted. Sad day for the sport,” added ESPN commentator Mike Greenberg.
Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger expressed his disappointment regarding the findings.
“It sucks, man,” Bellinger told ESPN. “We were close, but we did it the right way.”