Astros fire manager AJ Hinch, general manager Jeff Lunhow after MLB suspended each for 2020 season

Sports

HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 19: Manager AJ Hinch #14 of the Houston Astros celebrates with the trophy following his teams 6-4 win against the New York Yankees in game six of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 19, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball has suspended Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow without pay for one season after an investigation found the team used video to steal signs during their 2017 championship season, Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr., announced Monday.

The suspensions, which last through the 2020 World Series, are among a series of penalties based on the sign-stealing accusations. The team has to forfeit its regular first- and second-round selections in 2020 and 2021 drafts and pay a $5 million fine.

MLB rules prohibit the use of electronic devices to steal signs.

There is no evidence Astros owner Jim Crane was aware of the conduct, Manfred said in a statement. Crane fired both Hinch and Lunhow after news of the suspensions came down on Monday.

The investigation stems from a report in November in The Athletic, a sports news website, in which former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers — who now pitches for Oakland — said he warned his new teammates that at home games Houston used an outfield camera fixed on the opposing catcher to steal signs and relay the information to hitters.

The MLB investigation found that at the start of the 2017 season, employees in the Astros video replay room started using the live game feed from the center field camera to decode and transmit opposing teams’ sign sequences to use when an Astros runner was on second base.

When the sequence was decoded, a player in the video replay room would act as a “runner” to pass along the information to the dugout, according to the findings.

A person in the dugout would notify players in the dugout or signal the sign sequence to a runner on second base, who would decipher the catcher’s sign and signal, the investigation found.

On some occasions, employees in the replay review room communicated the sign sequence with text messages sent to a staff member on the bench with a smart phone — or, in other instances, to a cell phone nearby, the investigation found.

The league’s investigators interviewed 68 witnesses, including 23 current and former Astros players, and reviewed tens of thousands of emails, text messages, video clips and photographs, Manfred said.

The Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series.

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