Houston Astros GM, manager fired for sign-stealing during 2017 championship season

HOUSTON, Texas (KABC) -- Astros manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday after the pair was suspended by Major League Baseball for stealing signs during the team's run to the 2017 World Series, in which Houston beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games.

Astros owner Jim Crane announced the firing shortly after the MLB announced the two would be suspended for the 2020 season.

The team will also be forced to forfeit its first and second round picks in the 2020 and 2021 MLB draft. In addition, the Astros were fined $5 million, which is the highest allowable fine under the Major League Constitution.

Former Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman, who was fired by the Astros in October after he made offensive comments directed at a group of female reporters at the end of the American League Championship Series, has also been suspended for one year. Taubman, who is currently not employed by a MLB club, will not be able to work in baseball during that time.

The suspensions of Luhnow, Hinch and Taubman were set to begin immediately, ending on the day following the completion of the 2020 World Series.

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"I find that the conduct of the Astros, and its senior baseball operations executives, merits significant discipline," Commissioner Rob Manfred said as part of the nine-page ruling.

"I base this finding on the fact that the club's senior baseball operations executives were given express notice in September 2017 that I would hold them accountable for violations of our policies covering sign stealing, and those individuals took no action to ensure that the club's players and staff complied with those policies during the 2017 postseason and the 2018 regular season."

The Astros set up a monitor just outside their dugout to steal signs and banged on trash cans to alert hitters when an off-speed pitch was coming.

"The conduct described herein has caused fans, players, executives at other MLB clubs, and members of the media to raise questions about the integrity of games in which the Astros participated. And 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."

The news sent shockwaves through the professional baseball world last year, including in Los Angeles, where Dodgers fans called on the MLB to strip the Astros of their World Series title.

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Two anonymous sources told The Athletic that the Astros continued with their system during a postseason run in which they went 8-1 at Minute Maid Park, though another source denied its extension into October 2017.

After news of the scandal broke, some fans and analysts have been asking whether the Astros' conduct may have robbed Los Angeles of a World Series in 2017. Some fans have been tweeting memes of merchandise and banners with the Dodgers logo that read "World Series Champions 2017."

The Dodgers organization declined official comment, saying Major League Baseball has asked the other teams not to weigh on discipline imposed on another club. The Dodgers statement reads:

"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."

Clayton Kershaw, who blew two leads of three or more runs in Game 5 from Minute Maid Park, said he was "a little shocked" by the revelations.

"When the team and the players are doing what they can on the field to get the signs, that's obviously part of the game," Kershaw said. "But when technology comes into play, if that is really true, it sucks. Unless we get to win the World Series, I don't really care what the punishment is. But it does suck, no matter what."

The Dodgers went on to lose to the Astros, which won its first title and secured a big league-best 204-120 during the two years in question.

READ: Full MLB Commissioner's Report

According to ESPN, witnesses admitted the Astros used a system to relay pitch types to batters before they were thrown.

In November, former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic the team used a center-field camera to help steal the signs.

Fiers now pitches for the Oakland Athletics and told the website that he warned teammates with the Detroit Tigers and A's that Astros hitters had used a video feed piped into a monitor near the dugout to decode signs and relay them to hitters during games.

Before the league's decision was announced, it was expected that the targets for discipline would be employees of the team, including front office and on-field coaching personnel, but not players.
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