By: David Dodge
After receiving Major League Baseball’s (MLB) blockbuster report on the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, team owner and chairman, Jim Crane, announced at a press conference on January 13 that he had fired general manager (GM) Jeff Luhnow and field manager A.J. Hinch. Both Luhnow and Hinch had already been suspended by MLB for the coming season.
Crane also announced unequivocally that, “we are going to have a compliance program in place to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”
MLB’s penalties against the Astros also included the following:
- A loss of first and second-round draft picks in both 2020 and 2021,
- A $5 million fine, and
- The placement of former Astros’ assistant GM Brandon Taubman on baseball’s ineligible list.
Reporters Katherine Acquavella and R.J. Anderson further noted the following regarding the Astros’ scandal and punishment:
- The Astros’ use of technology crossed the line in violation of MLB rules,
- The $5 million fine is the maximum financial punishment imposable under the current Major League Constitution,
- Whistleblower Mike Fiers, a former Astros’ pitcher, gave an on-the-record account of how the Astros cheated,
- Current Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, and the team itself are under investigation by MLB for their alleged misconduct involving use of cameras to steal signs. Cora was alleged to have been a ring-leader of the sign-stealing while employed as a coach by the Astros.
- Team owner Jim Crane was cleared by MLB of any knowledge of the scam or any other wrongdoing,
- MLB’s report further suggested the Astros have a “bad culture.” MLB Rob Manfred described the Astros’ culture as “very problematic.”
While the Astros do not presently have an effective compliance program in place, Crane now appears to recognize the need for and the benefits of such a program. In reacting to the conclusion of MLB’s investigation into the organization, he reminded Astros’ fan and others that the Astros “received the stiffest penalties (by MLB) that have ever been given,” while promising, “we will always do the right thing and will not have this happen again on my watch.”
While Crane did not agree with MLB’s assessment that the team’s culture was lacking, he did act decisively upon receiving the League’s report – he fired the GM and the manager, those most responsible for the Astros’ serious violation of League rules. He also recognized that a preventive program must be established to assure that the wrongdoing identified by investigators does not repeat itself. These are but first steps – the heavy lifting of addressing the cultural issues identified by MLB, hiring a high-integrity GM and manager, and assuring that the team’s new compliance program is truly effective will be the test of his response.