HOUSTON — In one of the darkest days in Astros history, the fallout from a cheating scandal came fast and furious.
Astros owner Jim Crane said manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow will not return to the team. He fired both of them after an MLB investigation confirmed cheating allegations during the 2017 season.
MLB also suspended Hinch and Luhnow for the 2020 season as part of its harsh punishment for stealing signs during the team’s run to the World Series Championship.
“A.J. was upset. I think he understands the consequences. He said ‘I’m sorry, and I’ll do what I can to help the team,'” Crane said. “Jeff was a little bit shorter, he was traveling.”
The Houston Astros are also being fined $5 million and will forfeit 1st and 2nd-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.
No Astros players are being punished even though most position players on the 2017 team participated in some way, according to the report.
Many of the players interviewed said they knew it was wrong and they worried about getting caught.
Investigators interviewed 68 witnesses including 23 current and former Astros players. They also reviewed tens of thousands of emails, Slack communications, text messages, video clips and photographs.
The investigation began in November when former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers said the team was illegally stealing signs.
Stealing hand signals from the catcher to the pitcher in the MLB is nothing new, but using technology to do so is against the rules. Fiers said the Astros used cameras to get the signs and convey them to the batters.
Witnesses confirmed that one or more players would watch the live feed from the center field camera and a runner would relay the information to the dugout. Someone in the dugout would then signal a runner on second base, who would then signal the batter.
Witnesses said the scheme was cooked up and executed by players and the only coach who knew was then-bench coach Alex Cora, who is now the manager of the Red Sox.
The Red Sox are also under investigation for sign stealing in Cora’s first season as manager in 2018, when Boston won the title.
Luhnow implicated Cora in a statement Monday afternoon.
“I am not a cheater. Anybody who has worked closely with me during my 32-year career inside and outside baseball can attest to my integrity,” he said. “I did not know rules were being broken.”
Hinch took responsibility as the manager of the team.
“While the evidence consistently showed I didn’t endorse or participate in the sign stealing practices, I failed to stop them and I am deeply sorry,” Hinch said in a statement. “I regret that my time with the Astros has ended, but will always be a supporter of the club, players, and staff I’ve had the privilege of working alongside. I wish them the best in the future of the game I love.”
Crane was cleared of any involvement.
“Crane is extraordinarily troubled and upset by the conduct of members of his organization,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said.
He said Crane fully supported the investigation and provided unlimited access to all information requested.
In his report, Manfred had harsh words for the Astros’ culture, saying they “valued and rewarded results over other considerations.”
“While no one can dispute that Luhnow’s baseball operations department is an industry leader in its analytics, it is very clear to me that the culture of the baseball operations department — manifesting itself in the way its employees are treated, its relations with other clubs and its relations with the media and external stakeholders — has been very problematic,” Manfred said in the report.
Crane choked up during the news conference when he said this was a tough day.
“We apologize to our fans and all of our sponsors and the city in general, and we’re going to move forward,” Crane said. “We cleaned house. It’s behind us. And we’re gonna make this right and we’re gonna play baseball come spring.
Crane said he will begin an immediate search for a new GM and manager.
“We need to move forward with a clean slate,” Crane said. “You can be confident that we will always do the right thing and will not have this happen again on my watch.”
Scroll down to read the full report:
RELATED: 2020 Astros Caravan kicks off Monday