Astros Penalties And Suspensions Raise Many Questions
GM Jeffrey Luhnow and Manager AJ Hinch were not cited as ringleaders, but they were suspended for a year. After the suspension, they were fired by the Astros owner, Jim Crane, who was cleared of any wrongdoing.
While Crane was cleared of any wrongdoing, the team was fined $5 million, and we were told that’s the most they could be fined. They’re also losing their first and second round picks over the next two drafts.
Overall, Alex Cora was painted as the ringleader, and his comeuppance is coming. When that comes is not the only question this investigation and levying of penalties invoke.
Major League Baseball wants you to know that $5 million is the most any team can be fined by the Commissioner. That is partially true. According to Article II, Section 3 (e), the Commissioner is limited to fining a club $5 million for “each offense.”
The Astros did not cheat just once. As noted in the report, they cheated throughout 2017 and into 2018 (more on that in a moment). They cheated in at least 81 homes games plus the postseason. With reports Hinch smashed the televisions, they cheated each time they rebuilt the system.
This was not an isolated occurrence. The Astros cheated multiple times per game, and they reaped the benefit of tens of millions of dollars. Really, it was more than that, and in the end, they were hit with a rounding error due to a purposefully narrow view of the constitution.
On another note, Major League Baseball once stripped the Dodgers away from Frank McCourt due to how he operated his team, and George Steinbrenner was banned from baseball stemming from his attempts to get out from under the Dave Winfield contract. While it’s true this scandal may not have arisen to the level of stripping ownership away, it is also fair to point out there is far more than just taking away money that could be done to an owner.
The report goes out of its way to say he knew nothing. That’s possible, but it also says the Astros had a “failure by the leaders of the baseball operations department and the Field Manager to adequately manage the employees under their supervision, to establish a culture in which adherence to the rules is ingrained in the fabric of the organization, and to stop bad behavior as soon as it occurred”
That culture was one established directly or indirectly by Crane, and yet, he was at least personally exonerated.
Now, it is very well possible he didn’t know what was occurring. However, as we saw with the Brandon Taubman attacks of a reporter, he showed everyone he did not care about what his employees did as long as the team was winning.
AJ HINCH AND ASTROS’ COACHING STAFF
It is just interesting how Hinch smashed televisions on multiple occasions to show his players how he disapproved of what they were doing. However, baseball also punished him for one year for his failure to tell his players to stop. In terms of the coaching staff, we are being led to believe it was only him and Cora (who is going to be dealt with later by baseball) who knew or had the power.
Why is it they all got a pass? Don’t the coaches have a similar responsibility to tell their players not to do certain things?
On that front, the report does indicate the commissioner is going to leave it to the Astros to deal with other employees, but seeing how Crane has responded to the questions, he’s done. In essence, Crane and baseball have no issue with anyone other than the manager and GM, and they want you to believe with them gone, the people who could conceive, carry out, and/or continue this cheating, are also gone. That’s hard to believe.
First and foremost, why was Carlos Beltran the only player mentioned? It was made clear he wasn’t the only one involved, and yet he was the only one singled out. Either name them all or none.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post has floated the idea of this hurting Beltran’s Hall of Fame candidacy, which is possible, while Chris Carlin of ESPN Radio has created in his mind a massive coverup and has demanded Beltran’s firing.
On that note, how is it whenever something in MLB happens, the Mets find a way to look bad? I’d also note why is it now incumbent on the Mets to fire their new manager?
ALEX CORA SET UP TO BE A FALL GUY
Reading the report, it is very clear Cora is going to be the fall guy for all of this. Not only was he with the 2017 Astros, but he was also with the 2018 Red Sox. As the report is written, we see baseball wants to make him the mastermind behind all of this.
The problem is the Red Sox were fined for similar actions in 2017, and as Logan Morrison said, the Astros had been doing this since 2014. Morrison also implicated the Yankees and Dodgers, which is interesting considering they are purportedly two of the victims of the cheating.
It should be noted Crane purchased the Astros in 2011 while Cora was working for Baseball Tonight in 2014. How are we to believe Cora did all of this when other teams did it long before he got there?
BASEBALL DIDN’ T WANT TO KNOW
If you read the report, Major League Baseball wants you to know the Astros stopped cheating during the 2018 season. That coincides with Cora being the manager of the Red Sox and Beltran working for the Yankees front office. Put another way, they were gone, so this was a convenient point to say the Astros stopped everything.
There’s a problem with that. Part of the reason there was an investigation into the sign stealing was actions by the Astros during the 2019 ALCS. Instead of banging on trash cans, there was whistling to tip off pitches.
It’s clear there was something still going on during the 2019 postseason. In fact, we heard the Nationals team was very careful during the World Series. Despite that, Major League Baseball wants you to believe this was isolated to just a little more than one season for the Astros and just the 2018 season for the Red Sox.
Basically, baseball is burying its head in the sand, and they don’t want anyone to delve further into the matter. We see that with reports over their threatening teams if they speak about this publicly. Overall, baseball wants you to believe this matter has been completely handled, and it is going away.
If the steroids scandal is any indication, acting like this is not going to allow this to go away, and in the end, people who are somehow lauding Manfred for his handling of the matter will be justifiably criticizing him.
With the Astros being stripped of their first and second round draft picks for each of the next two years, there is a real issue over free agency. With the way the rules are written, teams have to forfeit a draft pick. Looking at the Astros, they already have. Does this mean they can pursue free agents with reckless abandon knowing they’ve already lost the draft pick, or does the loss of the draft pick effectively mean they cannot sign players who have received a qualifying offer.
On that point, George Springer is set to be a free agent. If the Astros extend him a qualifying offer and he signs elsewhere, does this now mean the Astros have a backdoor way to get draft picks?
So far, that has not been made clear, which in the end, speaks to how haphazardly the report was constructed. Really, it was not about discovering the truth or levying penalties. No, it was about finding a fall guy and trying to present the matter as isolated and closed.
The Astros sign stealing scandal created a huge problem for Major League Baseball. By and through the commissioner, Rob Manfred, baseball wants you to know it conducted a full investigation, and really the matter is closed. They even had a coordinated effort with the subsequent firings of Hinch and Luhnow by Crane.
And yet, baseball purposefully did not conduct an investigation into the full breadth of the Astros sign stealing, nor have they looked into it across the sport, at least not yet. They also really failed to punish the Astros financially in a way which will discourage them or another team from doing this or something similar ever again.
In the short term, it does seem baseball is controlling the message, and they have placated many. However, with the way this was all handled, it should not be a surprise to any if these problems re-emerge in the ensuing days, weeks, or months.