Astros manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday after the pair were suspended by Major League Baseball for the team's use of electronics for sign-stealing during Houston's run to the 2017 World Series title and again in the 2018 season. In US sports' largest scandal since the New England Patriots' “Spygate,” Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the discipline Monday and strongly hinted that current Boston manager Alex Cora—the Astros bench coach in 2017—will face equal or more severe punishment, the AP reports. Manfred said Cora developed the sign-stealing system used by the Astros. The Red Sox are under investigation for sign-stealing in Cora's first season as manager in 2018, when Boston won the World Series. Houston was fined $5 million, the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and the Astros will forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.
The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from the center-field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming. Knowing what pitch is coming improves a batter's odds of getting a hit. Sign-stealing is a legal and time-honored part of baseball as long as it is done with the naked eye—say, by a baserunner standing on second. Using technology is prohibited. Manfred, in his most significant action since becoming commissioner five years ago, said Hinch failed to stop the sign stealing and that Luhnow was responsible for the players' conduct even though he made the dubious claim he was not aware. Manfred said owner Jim Crane was not informed. An hour after MLB announced its decision, Crane opened a news conference by saying Hinch and Luhnow were fired. Also Monday, former Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman was suspended through the World Series for his profane remarks directed at female reporters during last year's AL Championship Series. (Read more Major League Baseball stories.)