Astros fire Hinch, Lunehow over “sign gate” scandal
HOUSTON -- On Monday, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane fired manager AJ Hinch and general manager Lunhow in wake of Major League Baseball’s conclusion that the organization used technology to steal opposing team’s signs during the 2017 season.
MLB also fined Houston five million dollars, the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, as punishment. The Astros will also forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.
The firings came after MLB had also suspended Hinch and Lunehow for one year. However, Crane went one step farther when he released Hinch and Lunehow.
In a statement, Crane said that “I have higher standards for the city and the franchise, and I’m going above and beyond MLB’s penalty. We need to move forward with a clean slate.”
Astros employees in the team’s video replay room started to decode signs using a center field camera at the start of the 2017 season. A player would act as a runner to bring the information to the dugout, where a runner on second would be signaled.
The runner would decode the catcher’s sign and signal the batter. At times, an employee in the replay room would convey the information by text message to the watch or phone of a staff member in the dugout.
Alex Cora, the bench coach at the time, began calling the replay room for the information early in the season. After a group of players that included Carlos Beltrán discussed how to improve the system about two months into the season, Cora arranged for a video monitor of a center field camera to be installed next to the dugout, and players would communicate pitches by banging a bat or massage gun on a trash can.
Two bangs usually were used for off-speed pitches and no sound for fastballs.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Hinch failed to stop the sign stealing and Luhnow was responsible for the players’ conduct even though he made the dubious claim he was not aware.
“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,” Manfred said.
Hinch issued a statement that said he was disappointed in the club’s actions within this time line, but he accepted the Commissioner’s decision.