Since the November article accusing the Houston Astros of utilizing the replay room at Minute Maid Park to decode signs in 2017 was published by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic, we all knew the Astros were going to be hit hard by Commissioner Robert Manfred.
On Monday, Manfred did just that with yearlong suspensions of General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch, an unprecedented $5-million fine and loss of their first and second round draft picks over the next two seasons. Owner Jim Crane saw the punishment from MLB and raised it by immediately firing Luhnow and Hinch.
Luhnow and Hinch were denied direct culpability by Manfred, but the commissioner said, since he couldn’t find much traction to suspend players, they must suffer the punishment for letting this happen directly under their noses.
However, contrary to what many pundits and players think, the punishment doesn’t kill the Astros.
The organization lost its two most vital pieces in the two Crane dismissed. They were instrumental in the revitalization of the once-cellardwellar team.
During his press conference on Monday, Crane said he warned Hinch and Luhnow that he wouldn’t tolerate anything clubs and players were alleging the Astros did. That’s why their contracts were terminated.
But, in that rebuilding process, Luhnow and Hinch made the machine that is the Houston Astros a self-sustaining one.
Luhnow drafted and obtained players that would continue to develop — like Lance McCullers, Jr., George Springer and Alex Bregman — while bringing in veterans to help speed the process up. In that time, Luhnow, a savant of the analytics world, was also able to train his successor, who has not been named yet, but Crane alluded to an in-house hire.
Hinch, also an analytics guru, was able to put together a long-term game plan for the Astros to be successful and pass that on to soon-to-be interim Manager Joe Espada, who has been the Bench Coach for the Astros since 2018.
The Astros cheated, that’s plain and simple. They deserve the punishment levied by MLB and Jim Crane should be commended for the action he took. He was a man of his word.
It’s a dark time for Houston sports. The punishment came down less than 24 hours after the Texans blew a 24-point lead in the AFC Divisional round to the Kansas City Chiefs.
But the Astros are going to be ok … and still your 2017 World Series champion.