Wed, Jan 15, 2020 - Page 16 News List

Astros coach and GM banned, fired


Houston Astros coach A.J. Hinch and general manager (GM) Jeff Luhnow on Monday were banned for the upcoming season then sacked by the club after the MLB found that team members engaged in an illegal sign-stealing scheme during their 2017 World Series-winning campaign.

In sanctions that sent shock waves through baseball, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said that the Astros had effectively ignored a league warning against illegal sign-stealing issued in September 2017.

“The conduct of the Astros, and its senior baseball operations executives, merits significant discipline,” Manfred said in a nine-page ruling. “While it is impossible to determine whether the conduct actually impacted the results on the field, the perception of some that it did causes significant harm to the game.”

Shortly after the suspensions were announced, Astros owner Jim Crane said that Hinch and Luhnow had been fired.

“We need to move forward with a clean slate,” Crane said.

In addition to the suspensions, the Astros have been fined the maximum US$5 million allowed under MLB rules.

They also forfeited their first and second-round picks in the drafts this year and next year, the league said.

The penalties are among the stiffest ever handed out to a team.

The Astros had been under investigation since November last year after former pitcher Mike Fiers lifted the lid on the tactics used to illegally steal signs from opposing teams.

Sign-stealing — observing the signals of opposing teams, most often between pitchers and catchers — is an age-old, albeit frowned upon practice by which players seek the tactical advantage of knowing what pitch is likely to be thrown.

The league forbids the use of mechanical or electronic assistance to help steal signs.

Fiers told the Athletic that the Astros had decoded signs with the assistance of a camera positioned in the outfield, with video relayed to a monitor near the home dugout.

The report said that an Astros employee would watch the opposing catcher’s signals on the monitor, then bang a trash can to let batters know what pitches to expect.

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