MLB issues historic punishment for Astros following sign-stealing investigation

Jeff Luhnow.
(Image credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball brought the hammer down on the Houston Astros after an investigation into allegations about the team using technology to steal signs during the 2017 season, in which they won the World Series. The MLB's ruling led the team's owner Jim Crane to fire manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Lunhow.

Players are getting off free, despite the fact that many actively participated in the scheme. Sign-stealing has long been part of the game and is perfectly legal when players decipher their opponents' signals on the field of play, but the Astros took things too far for the league when they brought technology into it. Houston would reportedly rout the feed from their home park's center field camera to a screen in the clubhouse where opposing team's signs would be decoded. Someone would then bang on a trashcan to let hitters know what pitch was on its way.

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But in a nine-page letter, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said it was too "difficult and impractical" to discipline every player who had a hand in the tactics. So, instead the team's higher-ups, manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Lunhow, took the fall. They each received one-year suspensions and were stunningly dismissed moments after Manfred's announcement by Crane, who Manfred said was not aware of the scheme. Houston was also hit with a $5 million fine, the maximum allowed by MLB, and the team will have to forfeit their first and second round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.

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It's the last bit that could deter other franchises from following in the Astros' footsteps. Losing the draft picks could sting for a while, especially considering Houston's success was built off the ability to draft and develop youngsters.

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Tim O'Donnell

Tim is a staff writer at The Week and has contributed to Bedford and Bowery and The New York Transatlantic. He is a graduate of Occidental College and NYU's journalism school. Tim enjoys writing about baseball, Europe, and extinct megafauna. He lives in New York City.