Connect with us

MLB

MLB hits Astros with huge penalties, Houston fires Hinch, Luhnow — Answering all the questions

Published

on

Major League Baseball announced punishment for the Houston Astros, including one-year suspensions for GM Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch, loss of draft picks in 2020 and 2021, and a $5 million fine, after an MLB investigation found the team used technology to cheat during its World Series-winning 2017 season. Luhnow and Hinch were subsequently fired by Astros owner Jim Crane.

ESPN.com’s Bradford Doolittle, Jeff Passan and David Schoenfield break down the penalties, what they mean for the Astros and what impact Monday’s punishment could have across the sport.

Just how harsh is this punishment compared with what was expected?

There was an awfully large range in the speculation, but unless you felt Jeff Luhnow and/or AJ Hinch might be subject to a permanent ban, the penalties are borderline shocking. That’s true even when you factor in that part of Rob Manfred’s thinking was related to the Brandon Taubman incident. A suspension of several weeks seemed likely, but a full year for the two most important members of a team’s baseball operations group is stunning, almost unprecedented. (Leo Durocher, when he was a manager, was suspended for a year, but there was a gambling element to his situation.) You had to expect a loss of draft picks, but the top two picks for two years is stunning. The $5 million fine seems inconsequential by comparison to those penalties. It’s clear Rob Manfred wanted to send a clear message to teams and fans alike. He has certainly done so. For that matter, so did Astros owner Jim Crane, who quickly moved to terminate Hinch and Luhnow. — Doolittle

I don’t think it’s shocking it all. To steal from the NCAA, you can call it a loss of institutional control, and Luhnow, Hinch and the organization had to pay a severe penalty — and Manfred certainly handed one down. For those arguing that using technology to steal signs is going on throughout the sport and that the Astros don’t deserve to be punished for what everyone else also might be doing, I disagree. The Astros got caught and got caught doing it in a year they won the World Series. This is exactly how you tell an entire sport to knock it off. You go after the big boys and send a strong message that this will not be tolerated. It’s time for baseball to return to a competition between players — not a competition between technology. — Schoenfield

Wait, the Astros just fired Luhnow and Hinch?

Yep. That happened. The Astros have widely been viewed as an organization where the bottom line is everything, which in part led into their recent scandals. Clearly, Crane is not happy with that perception. Whatever else you might think about Luhnow and Hinch, both are at the very top of their respective professions. Crane could have stated that the suspensions were adequate penalties and that the team would proceed with them both next season under a “no tolerance” policy about future embarrassments. He didn’t do that, and good for him. It couldn’t have been easy. His normally implacable demeanor seemed to waver a couple of times during his news conference. — Doolittle

What exactly does Hinch’s suspension mean?

Hinch won’t be running a team this year, and going forward he won’t be running the Astros, since Crane made the decision to fire him. Because Manfred did not implicate Hinch as an instigator of the schemes, the suspension shouldn’t make other teams shy away from hiring him. He’s respected in the game and will be a heck of managerial free agent. MLB’s statement laid out exactly this: “A.J. Hinch shall be suspended without pay for the period beginning on January 13, 2020 and ending on the day following the completion of the 2020 World Series.

“During the period of his suspension, Hinch is prohibited from performing any services for or conducting any business on behalf of the Astros or any other Major League Club. Hinch must not be present in any Major League, Minor League, or Spring Training facilities, including stadiums, and he may not travel with or on behalf of the Club. If Hinch is found to engage in any future material violations of the Major League Rules, he will be placed on the permanently ineligible list.” — Doolittle.

How much impact will this punishment have on the Astros on the field?

The Astros have a lot of work left to do this offseason after sitting out the free-agent market this winter, and now they will do so without Luhnow calling the shots. However, the Astros, perhaps as much as any club in baseball, are a process-oriented organization without an overwhelming top-down dynamic. In other words, given Houston was already unlikely to make any additional large monetary investments in its 2020 club, the Astros should be able to muddle through from a roster-building standpoint. The Astros have turned out a number of general manager candidates during Luhnow’s tenure, including Baltimore’s Mike Elias, so there ought to be qualified candidates in the organization. (Though Crane might want a new voice to head up the operation after this.)

As for losing Hinch, it won’t help. He’s largely thought of as one of baseball’s best managers, from a tactical and a clubhouse standpoint. (Although these penalties don’t speak well to the latter trait.) Still, let’s not forget that bench coach Joe Espada (who will now presumably run the dugout, though Crane didn’t commit to that in his news conference Monday) is highly respected and was already viewed as one of baseball’s top managerial prospects. Now, he’ll get a chance to show his stuff. As for a group of players that is all at once among baseball’s most talented, accomplished and cocksure, this has to be humbling. Manfred made it very apparent that the scandal started with the players, who aren’t being punished. They have a lot to prove and a lot to make up for in terms of their relationships with their manager and their general manager. — Doolittle

What about Alex Cora, will he be punished later?

Yes. Without a doubt. Manfred wrote that he “will withhold determining the appropriate level of discipline for Cora until after the DOI completes its investigation of the allegations that the Red Sox engaged in impermissible electronic sign stealing in 2018 while Cora was the manager.” But this was after he went into extensive detail about Cora’s central role in executing the Astros’ scheme as Hinch’s bench coach. He’ll get hit and hit hard. Given the gravity of Monday’s announcement, it wouldn’t be shocking if Cora joined Hinch on the sideline for the entirety of the 2020 season. — Doolittle

What’s different about the Astros and the Red Sox?

Based on what’s been reported, the allegations about the Red Sox are on a somewhat different level than those regarding the Astros. While the Red Sox supposedly used video to decode opponents’ sign sequences and passed the information along to their players, they did not go the additional step of using some means of communicating this knowledge — such as the Astros’ infamous trash-can banging — to players at the plate from the dugout in most situations. They needed to get a runner to second base to see the sequences and signal them to whoever was at the plate. Still, the allegations against the Red Sox refer to activity during the team’s championship 2018 season, which was after MLB issued clarified rules expressly banning the use of replay rooms for this purpose. — Doolittle

We keep hearing some variation of “everyone does this,” but is that really true?

To think this kind of behavior was limited to one or two teams would be to deny the realities about human behavior in hypercompetitive environments with massive economic stakes in play, especially where policy loopholes and gray areas exist, as they did until very recently. Every team certainly steals signs, as teams always have. Where they draw the line in terms of the kinds of mechanisms they use to do so probably varies from team to team. However, MLB tried to draw distinct lines with policies it has written over the past couple of years, and the alleged behavior of the Astros and Red Sox would certainly cross those lines. We’ll have to rely on MLB investigators to tell us just how widespread this issue actually is and has been. However, it would be surprising or even shocking to find out that the problem was limited to a small minority of teams. — Doolittle

So, is stealing signs against the rules or not?

That’s where things get complicated. The old-fashioned way is not against the rules. In the wake of the Red Sox incident from 2017 and accusations from the 2018 playoffs, when the Indians and Red Sox both discovered an unofficial employee of the Astros pointing a cellphone camera toward the Cleveland and Boston dugouts, MLB instituted new guidelines in 2019 regarding electronic sign stealing. (The Astros claimed the employee in 2018 was deployed in a preventative measure, although Luhnow admitted “it made us look guilty.”

Source link

MLB

Nationals manager Dave Martinez gets new three-year contract

Published

on

The Washington Nationals and manager Dave Martinez have agreed to a three-year extension, a source confirmed to ESPN. The deal is worth $7.5 million, according to USA Today.

Martinez had an option on his contract for next season, but this deal would replace that and keep the manager with the reigning World Series champs through the 2023 season.

MLB Network first reported on the two sides agreeing to an extension.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, who signed his own new contract this season, stated that re-signing Martinez was a priority for him.

Source link

Continue Reading

MLB

Brewers’ Corbin Burnes on injured list with strained left oblique

Published

on

ST. LOUIS — Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes was placed on the injured list Friday with a strained left oblique, likely ending the right-hander’s breakthrough season.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell said that if Milwaukee advances to the playoffs, Burnes would be unavailable for the first round and would be doubtful for the second round. The Brewers (27-29) are outside of playoff position but haven’t been eliminated from contention heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

“Take the next couple of days off and then start slowly working back into it, and we’ll see how quickly we can get things ramped up depending on how I’m recovering,” Burnes said.

Burnes is 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings, a dramatic improvement from a 2019 campaign in which he went 1-5 with an 8.82 ERA.

He suffered his first loss of the season Thursday by allowing three runs and six hits over 3 2/3 innings as the Brewers fell 4-2 to the St. Louis Cardinals. The injury, which was described Thursday night as lower back discomfort, appeared to bother Burnes throughout the fourth inning.

Burnes was placed on the injured list after undergoing an MRI.

“It didn’t end the way you necessarily wanted it to,” Counsell said. “He had a great season. We’ve talked about it many times — he should be happy with what he accomplished. One, you’ve got to heal up and see what happens. But regardless of what happens, he should be really pleased with what he’s been able to accomplish in the regular season.”

Burnes said the issue started bothering him during his previous start and cropped up periodically throughout the week, but that he felt fine before Thursday’s game.

“Everyone asked me beforehand, ‘Are you good to go?'” Burnes said. “[I replied], ‘I’m good to go.’ It was one of those things where there was just a little bit of tightness, but I thought it would be just fine. Everyone’s asking me after, ‘Do you still think you should have gone last night?’ Absolutely. It’s one of those things, I think I can go out there and get outs. For the most part, I was able to, up until the very end there. It’s one of those things. Absolutely no regrets about going out there last night.”

Source link

Continue Reading

MLB

Thom Brennaman resigns from Cincinnati Reds games after slur

Published

on

Thom Brennaman has resigned as a Cincinnati Reds broadcaster after he used an anti-gay slur on the air last month, he told WCPO on Friday.

“My family and I have decided that I am going to step away from my role as the television voice of the Cincinnati Reds,” Brennaman said in a statement to the network. “I would like to thank the Reds, Reds fans and the LGBTQ community for the incredible support and grace they have shown my family and me.”

On Aug. 19, Brennaman used the slur moments after the Fox Sports Ohio feed returned from a commercial break before the top of the seventh inning in the first game of a doubleheader at Kansas City. Brennaman did not seem to realize he was already on air. He later apologized.

The Reds took Brennaman off the broadcast in the fifth inning of the second game, handing his duties to alternate play-by-play man Jim Day.

On Friday, Brennaman said he “so very sorry” for his comment and hoped to continue as a broadcaster.

“And if I’m given that opportunity, I will be a better broadcaster and a much better person.” Brennaman said in his statement.

In a statement at the time of Brennaman’s comment, the Reds said they were “devastated by the horrific, homophobic remark.”

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending