It’s been a rough few days for Houston sports fans. On Sunday, the Texans football team lost a playoff game to the Kansas City Chiefs, knocking the Texans out of contention for the Super Bowl. On Monday, an MLB investigation into cheating allegations against the Houston Astros found that the team used electronically assisted sign-stealing techniques during the Astros’ 2017 World Series-winning season, as well as in 2018. The league imposed what have been described as the most severe penalties in MLB history. Next came a pair of high-profile firings.
Chandler Rome writes about the Astros for the Houston Chronicle. He says the Astros’ manager and general manager each received one-year suspensions, and the MLB fined the team $5 million – the most amount a team can be fined by the league. The team must also forfeit first- and second-round draft picks during the next two seasons.
An hour after the penalties were announced, Astros owner Jim Crane fired the team’s manager and general manager.
“It was a pretty seismic move for the Astros organization, considering that [General Manager] Jeff Luhnow is the man who resurrected this franchise from being an ‘also-ran’ in the early 2010s,” Rome says. “He was widely considered one of the best general managers, not only in baseball but in all of sports.”
Rome says AJ Hinch, who was also fired, was considered one of the best team managers in baseball.
The Astros were found to have used a camera located in center field to capture signs used by opposing catchers.
“They would get the signs in the dugout via a live feed on a monitor … and then they would relay what pitch was coming to batters on the field by banging a trash can – once for a fastball, twice for a breaking ball,” Rome says.
The investigation found that Luhnow and Hinch didn’t know about the sign-stealing, but that they didn’t do anything to prevent it either.
For the Astros, Rome says, the loss of $5 million and two successful executives pales in comparison to the success the team has had on the field, and the financial and reputational benefits that success has brought to owner Jim Crane.
“While the penalties that were levied seemed so harsh and so egregious, there is still a prevailing thought in the industry that not enough was done to the Astros to dissuade this from happening again,” Rome says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.