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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

MLB’s punishment for Astros was both harsh and not enough

After an investigation into allegations of the Astros stealing signs and relaying them to hitters during games, Major League Baseball suspended GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch each for one year. In a press conference this afternoon, Astros owner Jim Crane announced that Luhnow and Hinch had been dismissed. The Astros’ punishment also includes a $5 million fine and the loss of their first- and second-round draft picks in both 2020 and ’21.

MLB’s report on the Astros’ cheating scheme was damning. Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote, “But 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. At least in my view, the baseball operations department’s insular culture – one that valued and rewarded results over other considerations, combined with a staff of individuals who often lacked direction or sufficient oversight, led, at least in part, to the Brandon Taubman incident, the Club’s admittedly inappropriate and inaccurate response to that incident, and finally, to an environment that allowed the conduct described in this report to have occurred.”

There is no question that the punishment handed down to Luhnow and Hinch was harsh. Both have been fired but cannot work in Major League Baseball until their suspensions are over following the completion of the 2020 season. They will not be paid for this season, and their careers have each been tarred by the cheating scandal enough where it may be difficult for them to find work in the sport in 2021 and beyond. Losing four high draft picks will also hurt; it is likely the aspect of the punishment that stings the organization the most.

That being said, the punishment did not go far enough to make the Astros regret having pulled off this caper. Crane, for example, was more or less exonerated by Manfred in the report, not that we should have expected anything more. Manfred wrote, “Jim Crane was unaware of any of the violations of MLB rules by his Club. In fact, Crane told Luhnow after the Red Sox discipline was announced that Luhnow should make sure that the Astros did not engage in similar conduct.”

A commentary on the meaning of today, and of various aspects associated with it.

 

QLE Posted: January 14, 2020 at 01:29 AM | 77 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, dirty rotten cheaters

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   1. villageidiom Posted: January 14, 2020 at 08:53 AM (#5915513)
I'll go on the record to say that Hinch's career will be fine after this. The report goes out of its way to say he objected to the whole thing and took steps to shut it down. He's being punished for doing a lot to end it, but not having done quite enough. Players know he's not even falling on a sword here; he's being pushed onto it. Owners know he has some measure of integrity. Hinch will have plenty of advocates in MLB.
   2. Blastin Posted: January 14, 2020 at 09:20 AM (#5915521)
He also came off as a little coward. He'll be back... eventually. But not in 2021.
   3. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 14, 2020 at 09:28 AM (#5915524)
I'll go on the record to say that Hinch's career will be fine after this. The report goes out of its way to say he objected to the whole thing and took steps to shut it down. He's being punished for doing a lot to end it, but not having done quite enough. Players know he's not even falling on a sword here; he's being pushed onto it. Owners know he has some measure of integrity. Hinch will have plenty of advocates in MLB.

Where do we see he did "a lot to end it"? Breaking a couple of monitors isn't "a lot". Did he bench the players who were banging the can? Did he go to Luhnow and Crane?

When you're in charge, if your people do bad things, and you know and don't stop it, you're equally to blame.
   4. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: January 14, 2020 at 09:50 AM (#5915532)
"Man, I'm glad you asked that question, and I thought it would come up today. We talked about this the other day, and in reality, it's a joke, but Major League Baseball does a lot to ensure the fairness of the game," said Hinch. "There's people everywhere, if you go through the dugouts and the clubhouses and the hallways, there's like so many people around that are doing this. Then when I get contacted about some questions about whistling, it made me laugh because it's ridiculous. Had I known that it would take something like that to set off the Yankees or any other team, we would have practiced it in spring training, because apparently it works even when it doesn't happen."

"To me, I understand the gamesmanship, I understand kind of creating a narrative for yourself or wondering how things are going," Hinch continued. "Now the game in question, we got three hits and no runs. Nobody heard it. You guys have audio, video, people in places and there's no evidence of anything. To the Yankees, there's nothing bad going on."

"The problem that I have is when other people take shots at us outside this competition," he explained. "When you guys ask me this question, my face, my name is by my quotes. My opinions, my reactions are all for you guys to tweet out and put on the broadcast, but when we have people that are unnamed or you guys have sources that are giving you information, I suggest they put their name by it if they're so passionate about it to comment about my team of my players.

"There's nothing going on other than the competition on the field. The fact that I had to field questions about it before a really, really, cool game at Yankee Stadium is unfortunate, but we can put it to rest. That will be the last question I answer about pitch tipping or pitch stealing."


There's a narrative developing here that really doesn't line up with how Hinch publicly acted while this was first coming out. Sure, I get standing up for your players and everything, but no, I do not think this is someone who really was that concerned with what was going on and didn't try that hard to stop it.
   5. PreservedFish Posted: January 14, 2020 at 10:07 AM (#5915540)
Where do we see he did "a lot to end it"? Breaking a couple of monitors isn't "a lot". Did he bench the players who were banging the can? Did he go to Luhnow and Crane?


Difficult to speculate on this. It's tough to understand how he could break multiple monitors (which seems like a rather flamboyant, attention-getting way to deal with the problem) while also not saying a word to Cora or the players. Maybe he got mad at some A/V dork but didn't have the courage to express himself to the millionaire players that he manages? Or maybe not even the standing? Maybe everyone in the Astros world understood that Hinch was a mere middle manager that decided things like practice schedules and the starting lineup but didn't have any real authority over the players.
   6. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: January 14, 2020 at 10:17 AM (#5915543)
The report goes out of its way to say he objected to the whole thing and took steps to shut it down.

This is not what happened. He passive-aggressively damaged two monitors, apparently because he wasn't man enough to tell the team to stop it.

Did he call a team meeting and demand that it be stopped? HE IS IN CHARGE!!! He basically did NOTHING to stop it.

Once the team didn't stop it, did he run it up the flag pole to GM and owner?

C'mon.



   7. jingoist Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:04 AM (#5915570)
I am curious about the BBTF community’s thoughts as to this type of cheating and how it relates/doesn’t relate to the players using PEDs.
Are cheaters all the same?
Does the game suffer in similar ways from either instance?
   8. JRVJ Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:14 AM (#5915576)
I don't like how this has turned out, in the sense that the GM and Manager of the Astros got suspended for a year (and were thus fired, and are at risk of not finding a job when they come back. At a minimum, they are close to being suspended permanently from baseball).

The Assistant Manager of the Astros (at the time) will probably be suspended for a year or more, once the concurrent BoSox investigation is completed.

But none of the players is getting penalized in any way. Not even a slap on the wrist or a de minimis fine.

This seems like very incomplete justice to me, and Luhnow and Hinch (and ultimately Cora) are being made into scapegoats.

*** ***
I understand that it is hard to fine players. I understand the union would fight this tooth and nail.

But it seems terribly unfair that the players that were involved in this are getting off scott free but Luhnow and Hinch (and ultimately Cora) are getting this treatment.

   9. Esoteric Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:18 AM (#5915579)
HE IS IN CHARGE!!! He basically did NOTHING to stop it.
Here's the thing: the subtextual message that I took away from this report is that he is *not* in charge. Under Luhnow (and an increasing number of front offices these days) the manager is a mere figurehead, just a guy who takes orders from the quants in the FO about lineups, reliever usage patterns, platooning etc., and whose only role is to provide a physical presence out there to walk out of the dugout and/or make substitutions, and manage player egos. Hinch is no profile in courage -- indeed I don't believe he should ever manage again after this scandal, given its enormity -- but with all the talk in the Manfred Report about "front office culture" combined with Hinch's weirdly passive-aggressive non-response to the cheating scandal, I get the clear impression that he felt powerless to object.

This, incidentally, is one reason I don't buy for a second that the front office wasn't entirely aware of, and supportive of, the sign-stealing. From top to bottom, all those guys had to know. A monitor doesn't get set up right next to the dugout without them collaborating on it.
   10. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:18 AM (#5915580)
I understand that it is hard to fine players. I understand the union would fight this tooth and nail.

But it seems terribly unfair that the players that were involved in this are getting off scott free
I think I'm coming around to this view as well.
   11. SoSH U at work Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:18 AM (#5915582)
I am curious about the BBTF community’s thoughts as to this type of cheating and how it relates/doesn’t relate to the players using PEDs.


It's the mirror image. There, the players took the entire brunt of blame for a corrupt system. Here, the manager and GM are taking the fall and the players are skating. And with both PEDs and this, everyone associated knew what was going on was cheating.
   12. John Northey Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:21 AM (#5915585)
I couldn't see a team hiring Hinch as a manager again anytime soon. He now would have a lot of trouble getting respect from players as he clearly didn't stand up when he saw things were being done in a way he didn't agree with - would you trust him to do the right thing in the future? Would you, as a player, think that he'd stand up for you or up to you if needed? I know I wouldn't expect much in that way. I could see him as a coach, maybe a bench coach after a few years. One hopes he learned a lot from this but his career as a MLB manager is over unless he shows a LOT after re-earning his dues. He might even need to manage in the minors for awhile again.
   13. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:22 AM (#5915586)
I am curious about the BBTF community’s thoughts as to this type of cheating and how it relates/doesn’t relate to the players using PEDs.
Are cheaters all the same?
Does the game suffer in similar ways from either instance?


The issue with PEDs is that a) those using PEDs impelled others to also use them to keep up in a competitive sport, and b) using these substances meant taking on unknown risks to one's health, so the cheating materially affected the health of other players.

The Astros' are guilty of a) but not b).
   14. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:25 AM (#5915589)
From Jay Jaffe's coverage over on Fangraphs:

The Astros’ efforts “with the exception of Cora [were] player-driven and player-executed,” and began early in the 2017 season, with a simple system where employees in the team’s video replay room viewed live footage from the center field camera, then decoded and relayed the sign sequence to the dugout. From there it was signaled to a runner on second base, who would transmit the signal to the batter. Soon Cora began calling the replay review room to obtain the signals, and on some occasions the information was delivered via text messages on smart watches or cell phones.
My question is, how is there enough time between the sign being given and the pitch being thrown for all this to happen? Pitchers hold the ball too long, but that long? I assume that's why the Astros switched to the very latest in cutting-edge trash-can-banging technology after a couple months. But as I understand it this is essentially what the Red Sox did as well.
   15. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:47 AM (#5915601)
I understand that it is hard to fine players. I understand the union would fight this tooth and nail.
It's pretty sad that it's just assumed (with good reason) that the union would go to the mat with "No punishment for players who admitted to cheating!!" as the rallying cry.

   16. Kiko Sakata Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:53 AM (#5915608)
It's pretty sad that it's just assumed (with good reason) that the union would go to the mat with "No punishment for players who admitted to cheating!!" as the rallying cry.


I don't know what the union's legal responsibilities would entail. But the guys who the Astros were cheating against were/are ALSO members of the same union. I mean, if you think that the cheating is what allowed the Astros to beat the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series, George Springer basically stole money - the difference between the winner's share and the loser's share - from Yu Darvish. Is it obvious that the MLBPA would side with Springer over Darvish in that dispute?
   17. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:53 AM (#5915610)
It's pretty sad that it's just assumed (with good reason) that the union would go to the mat with "No punishment for players who admitted to cheating!!" as the rallying cry.


The problem is that the players will just say it was management's idea. The maximum fines you can levy are small, and you can't very well suspend players who are on other teams now.
   18. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:57 AM (#5915611)
The problem is that the players will just say it was management's idea.
Well, they can say whatever they want. Doesn't mean Manfred has to buy it. As I understand it, there seems to be conclusive evidence that they would be lying.
you can't very well suspend players who are on other teams now.
Why not? If a player was going to be suspended for domestic violence or PEDs, they would suspend him regardless of whether he had changed teams.
   19. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:58 AM (#5915614)
I mean, if you think that the cheating is what allowed the Astros to beat the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series, George Springer basically stole money - the difference between the winner's share and the loser's share - from Yu Darvish. Is it obvious that the MLBPA would side with Springer over Darvish in that dispute?
Has the union ever not opposed something that MLB wanted to do?
   20. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 14, 2020 at 12:01 PM (#5915620)
Well, they can say whatever they want. Doesn't mean Manfred has to buy it. As I understand it, there seems to be conclusive evidence that they would be lying.

Manfred only has that evidence because he gave them immunity in exchange for testimony about management. If he hadn't, it would have been a huge exercise in pointing fingers.
   21. jmurph Posted: January 14, 2020 at 12:12 PM (#5915628)
My question is, how is there enough time between the sign being given and the pitch being thrown for all this to happen? Pitchers hold the ball too long, but that long? I assume that's why the Astros switched to the very latest in cutting-edge trash-can-banging technology after a couple months. But as I understand it this is essentially what the Red Sox did as well.

My understanding of what the Red Sox did is decode the signals via replay to then be stolen in the traditional manner via runner on base. Once they knew the signals, they could steal them better. They were not accused (in the article that broke the story, at least), of any kind of illegal signalling of the stolen signs, just the illegal stealing.
   22. Kiko Sakata Posted: January 14, 2020 at 12:19 PM (#5915634)
My understanding of what the Red Sox did is decode the signals via replay to then be stolen in the traditional manner via runner on base. Once they knew the signals, they could steal them better. They were not accused (in the article that broke the story, at least), of any kind of illegal signalling of the stolen signs, just the illegal stealing.


There's definitely a gray area here - I'm pretty sure the 2017 Astros aren't in it, but it exists. I saw somebody who'd been working in baseball for decades (I forget who - former MLB player who did some minor-league and MLB coaching since then) talk about how he would study videotape of third-base coaches to try to figure out team's signs. This was on Twitter, so maybe I read the tone/context wrong, but he seemed to be implying that this was done by everybody - which I'm sure it was/is - and was qualitatively comparable to what the Astros did - which it seems to me not to be at all.

It's one thing for the advance scout before a series to make some observations about the other team's sign-sequencing with a runner on second. It's quite another for the guys in the dugout to be looking at the catcher's signals in real time.
   23. JRVJ Posted: January 14, 2020 at 12:19 PM (#5915635)
16, I would be very surprised if MLB management didn't at least put out some feelers to the MLBPA before closing the investigation.

   24. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: January 14, 2020 at 12:25 PM (#5915637)
There's definitely a gray area here - I'm pretty sure the 2017 Astros aren't in it, but it exists. I saw somebody who'd been working in baseball for decades (I forget who - former MLB player who did some minor-league and MLB coaching since then) talk about how he would study videotape of third-base coaches to try to figure out team's signs. This was on Twitter, so maybe I read the tone/context wrong, but he seemed to be implying that this was done by everybody - which I'm sure it was/is - and was qualitatively comparable to what the Astros did - which it seems to me not to be at all.


I think that was Tim Flannery. I had the same read you did too. I think there is a pretty substantial difference between going back and looking at tapes and picking stuff up live time.
   25. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 14, 2020 at 12:28 PM (#5915638)
Manfred only has that evidence because he gave them immunity in exchange for testimony about management. If he hadn't, it would have been a huge exercise in pointing fingers.
Yeah, I thought about that too. I guess the question would be whether he could have gotten enough info without cooperation from the players. Possibly? Non-players were incentivized to cooperate in hopes of reducing their own punishment.
   26. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: January 14, 2020 at 12:36 PM (#5915645)
I wonder just how much cooperation was necessary? I mean, the trashcan-banging-to-off-speed-pitch correlation was pretty robust. It's not like these kind of proceedings have criminal trial standards of evidence, and Manfred can wave around the "best interests of baseball" card.
   27. Srul Itza Posted: January 14, 2020 at 12:44 PM (#5915648)
I am in the camp with those who say, if he was too afraid or powerless to give an order to stop, maybe he should be fired.
   28. Zonk didn't order a hit on an ambassador Posted: January 14, 2020 at 12:56 PM (#5915653)
I see both sides of the punish the players/punishing players wasn't feasible... I'm not sure where I land.

For those who think - let's set aside the CBA/MLBPA for now - how/who specifically do you punish? All Astro players for the last 3-4-whatever years? Pro-rate for time on the roster? Only the players who admitted it? Pitchers, too? A sliding scale of early confessors to gig is up and OK, fine, I was involved? What about players who insist they knew nothing about it?
   29. Blastin Posted: January 14, 2020 at 01:00 PM (#5915659)
I am in the camp with those who say, if he was too afraid or powerless to give an order to stop, maybe he should be fired.


And let's be clear, if he was so so contrite, maybe the cocky "hahaha I can't believe the Yankees think we are cheating that is ridiculous" interview from this past year is... evidence to the contrary.
   30. jmurph Posted: January 14, 2020 at 01:02 PM (#5915660)
It's one thing for the advance scout before a series to make some observations about the other team's sign-sequencing with a runner on second. It's quite another for the guys in the dugout to be looking at the catcher's signals in real time.

Right I wasn't trying to say that what the Red Sox did wasn't a rules violation, it clearly was. I was just trying to better explain what they've been accused of.
   31. flournoy Posted: January 14, 2020 at 01:04 PM (#5915663)
I agree that what's been made public is ample grounds for Hinch's termination. If he was too spineless to make a stand, or lacked the authority to do so, then either way that doesn't speak well of his standing as a manager. And I think this is the end of his big league managerial career. There are only 30 such jobs in the world, and many more than 30 qualified candidates. Nobody's going to hire a new manager with this sort of baggage.
   32. jmurph Posted: January 14, 2020 at 01:45 PM (#5915674)
And I think this is the end of his big league managerial career. There are only 30 such jobs in the world, and many more than 30 qualified candidates. Nobody's going to hire a new manager with this sort of baggage.

Agree, and I think Cora is likely done, too. I think they're at best bench coaches again. I don't think they'll even get talking heads gigs for a while.
   33. For the Turnstiles (andeux) Posted: January 14, 2020 at 01:55 PM (#5915677)
how/who specifically do you punish? All Astro players for the last 3-4-whatever years? Pro-rate for time on the roster? Only the players who admitted it? Pitchers, too? A sliding scale of early confessors to gig is up and OK, fine, I was involved? What about players who insist they knew nothing about it?


At the very least, anyone who is on tape banging on the trash can or was at the plate when the trash-can banging was happening.

This
The Astros’ efforts “with the exception of Cora [were] player-driven and player-executed,” and began early in the 2017 season, with a simple system where employees in the team’s video replay room viewed live footage from the center field camera, then decoded and relayed the sign sequence to the dugout.

seems to contradict itself in a single sentence: the scheme was reliant on employees in the video replay room, so was not solely player-executed. And weren't there also some incriminating emails from Kevin Goldstein and other scouts about setting up the system. It seems pretty implausible that Luhnow was not in the loop.
   34. PreservedFish Posted: January 14, 2020 at 02:02 PM (#5915679)
I don't think they'll even get talking heads gigs for a while.


I'm sure Fox has room for them.
   35. PreservedFish Posted: January 14, 2020 at 02:03 PM (#5915681)
seems to contradict itself in a single sentence: the scheme was reliant on employees in the video replay room, so was not solely player-executed.


I think it just takes it for granted that the A/V team don't count as relevant humans.
   36. villageidiom Posted: January 14, 2020 at 02:08 PM (#5915683)
In my first post I'm not meaning to defend Hinch. He took steps but not nearly enough, and deserved at a minimum to be suspended. I'm just saying the report is written to emphasize that he had nothing to do with setting it up, took steps (though ineffective) to stop it, and feels remorseful that he didn't do more.

Compare that to how the report addresses Luhnow. It's relatively scathing in its discussion of him and the front-office culture under his watch. At no point does it say Luhnow is remorseful or feels he could/should have done more, and at one point the report points out that they have documentary evidence and testimony to confirm something that Luhnow adamantly denied. They're saying in this report that Luhnow is basically unemployable as GM in MLB: he's untrustworthy, will destroy any positive culture your organization has, and might get your organization into similar hot water in the future should you choose to employ him. That's the subtext of how the Luhnow passage is written.

The Hinch section describes Hinch as... well-intended but passive? Like, Hinch is described better here than Francona was described on his way out of Boston. That's not at all to absolve Hinch nor to say he deserves better than he got; nor is it to say a media hit-job and a MLB investigative report are the same thing. But Francona basically had no trouble getting a job again in MLB when one opened up again. I'm just saying the whole thing is written as if to say Hinch isn't a bad guy. That's why I think he'll be back in MLB.
   37. wjones Posted: January 14, 2020 at 02:54 PM (#5915701)
Compare that to how the report addresses Luhnow. It's relatively scathing in its discussion of him and the front-office culture under his watch. At no point does it say Luhnow is remorseful or feels he could/should have done more, and at one point the report points out that they have documentary evidence and testimony to confirm something that Luhnow adamantly denied. They're saying in this report that Luhnow is basically unemployable as GM in MLB: he's untrustworthy, will destroy any positive culture your organization has, and might get your organization into similar hot water in the future should you choose to employ him. That's the subtext of how the Luhnow passage is written.

This is perhaps why either Hinch didn't go to Luhnow, or didn't go over his head to ownership.
   38. pikepredator Posted: January 14, 2020 at 03:00 PM (#5915703)
I just don't think it's practical to punish players - many of whom are on new teams by now. GM and Manager are responsible for the actions of their people - at least when it's a coordinated, group effort. Luhnow's total shirking of responsibility is pathetic. If I was going to hire him after a scandal like this, it would be after he accepted responsibility - or at least owned the fact that this happened on his watch, and his lack of oversight/awareness was unacceptable. His whole "let me throw my employees under the bus" routine is garbage.
   39. wjones Posted: January 14, 2020 at 03:06 PM (#5915706)
So I have been reading this stuff for a couple of days now. I keep hearing about 2017, and how they are looking at the Red Sox for 2018. So is nothing on the table for 2019? I know the Astros lost the Series, and famously lost every home game (kind of putting a dull point on a home field edge), but is 2019 not being looked into at all?
   40. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 14, 2020 at 03:18 PM (#5915711)
many of whom are on new teams by now.
Why does this matter? It doesn't for PED or domestic violence suspensions.
   41. pikepredator Posted: January 14, 2020 at 03:35 PM (#5915717)
Why does this matter? It doesn't for PED or domestic violence suspensions.


Valid point. For domestic violence, it shouldn't matter. Get them off the field, period.

For PEDs, it is typically a much faster "turnaround" time. This particular scandal involves something that happened on-field as part of a Houston Astros team-wide effort (more or less), two years ago . . . I am struggling to articulate why, but the time delay means many of these players have scattered, and the fact that it was a coordinated Astros effort makes me want to punish the Astros specifically, not all the random teams to which those players have scattered.

Also, for the sake of deterrence, teams need to know that they can't simply blame players/trade them away. This puts the onus on mgmt to be aware of and in control of what their players are doing. It will embolden the next AJ Hinch to escalate control of these issues to the GM and owner if need be.
   42. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 14, 2020 at 03:45 PM (#5915721)
Also, for the sake of deterrence, teams need to know that they can't simply blame players/trade them away. This puts the onus on mgmt to be aware of and in control of what their players are doing. It will embolden the next AJ Hinch to escalate control of these issues to the GM and owner if need be.
Agreed that management should also be punished - but this isn't an argument for *not* punishing the players.

I am struggling to articulate why, but the time delay means many of these players have scattered, and the fact that it was a coordinated Astros effort makes me want to punish the Astros specifically, not all the random teams to which those players have scattered.
No one is saying the Astros shouldn't be punished specifically - but the players should *also* be punished. Their new teams knew that the investigation was going on when they acquired them if it was during this offseason. If there are teams that acquired the players before the investigation was announced, yeah, that's somewhat unfair - but a significantly lesser injustice than having all the players go completely unpunished.
   43. Jeff Frances the Mute Posted: January 14, 2020 at 03:58 PM (#5915726)
So I have been reading this stuff for a couple of days now. I keep hearing about 2017, and how they are looking at the Red Sox for 2018. So is nothing on the table for 2019? I know the Astros lost the Series, and famously lost every home game (kind of putting a dull point on a home field edge), but is 2019 not being looked into at all?

Allegedly, most teams realized that something was happening and adjusted their signs to compensate during the 2018 season.
   44. pikepredator Posted: January 14, 2020 at 04:09 PM (#5915727)
a significantly lesser injustice than having all the players go completely unpunished.


I'm trying to figure out Which players, specifically, I would punish. The entire Astros team - whether they participated or not? The ones banging the trash cans? The ones who were in the video room doing the decoding? The players for whom we have the at-bat evidence that they were batting while the cans were being hit?

I could be convinced to agree with punishing the players, but even then I would like the punishment to be commensurate with their level of involvement. And I don't know any way to figure that out. Maybe that's letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. I'm open to suggestions.
   45. Walt Davis Posted: January 14, 2020 at 04:10 PM (#5915729)
Out of curiosity, which are cheating and who deserves punishment?

Batter notices the pitcher is tipping his pitches

Batter tells his teammates

Coach notices and tells the batters what to look for

One or more coaches and one or more video guys review old tape to find pitchers who tip their pitches and tell the batters? With GM's knowledge and approval?

Suppose there's a runner on 2nd and both the C and P have a brain fart and forget to use multiple signals. Catcher puts down a 1, runner can't believe his luck, signals fastball to hitter

Runner on 2nd has figured out the signals (maybe he used to play for them), signals to batter

This player has informed everybody else what the signals are

Coach has figured out the signals, tells all players to signal to batter if they are on 2nd

Team uses video of past games to figure out signals but no use of live video so only useful with runner on 2B

Team uses live video to steal signals on evvery pitch
   46. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 14, 2020 at 04:22 PM (#5915734)
Team uses live video to steal signals on evvery pitch


This is the only one that's against the rules.
   47. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 14, 2020 at 04:25 PM (#5915736)
There's definitely a gray area here - I'm pretty sure the 2017 Astros aren't in it, but it exists. I saw somebody who'd been working in baseball for decades (I forget who - former MLB player who did some minor-league and MLB coaching since then) talk about how he would study videotape of third-base coaches to try to figure out team's signs.
I don’t see a ‘gray area’ at all. Video scouting opponents’ signs in the hope they will use the same signs when you play them, or to help you later decipher them through player/coach observation is OK. Use of in-game video to pick up signs is prohibited. MLB insists that was always the rule, but they seem to tacitly concede that there may have been enough doubt about either the rule, or perhaps more accurately, MLB’s interest in enforcing the rule, that MLB issued a memo clearly stating what was a rules violation and threatening disciplinary action for violations. The semi-draconian punishments were for what happened after the memo, not what went on before.
   48. Walt Davis Posted: January 14, 2020 at 04:25 PM (#5915737)
The player punishment issue is discussed quite a bit in the other thread. I think there's widespread agreement that the players deserve punishment and, in an ideal world, would receive it. But in the real world, their testimony was needed. In theory, you didn't necessarily need a lot of player testimonry so ideally you get that from the "least guilty" players and go after the most guilty parties. But then you run into the culture of not ratting out other players. Realistically Manfred/investigators/"prosecutors" had to decide who to bring the hammer down on and they, rightly IMO, brought it down on Luhnow and Hinch (and presumably Cora). I also get the sense, from that passage of the report, that Manfred is highly confident there was a lot of dodgy stuff going on in Luhnow's frat house but this is what he could prove.

Or ... the accountant who filed the mobster's fraudulent tax returns and advised him on how to launder his money was also guilty of a crime but nobody cares as long as he testifies.

Somebody in the other thread noted the asymmetry that team fines are capped at $5 M while suspended players receive no salary which can easily be in the tens of millions. Of course the draft picks are theoretically worth tens of millions.
   49. Karl from NY Posted: January 14, 2020 at 04:26 PM (#5915738)
It's tough to understand how he could break multiple monitors (which seems like a rather flamboyant, attention-getting way to deal with the problem)

I doubt this was, like, winding up and smashing the screen with a bat. More likely it was something simple like knifing the power cord or supergluing the HDMI port.
   50. Walt Davis Posted: January 14, 2020 at 04:29 PM (#5915740)
This is the only one that's against the rules.

So what? PEDS also weren't against the rules yet few have problems labelling their use as cheating. What is the moral/ethical difference between a player stealing live signals and a camera stealing live signals? Is the difference large enough to justify people losing jobs and possibly having careers ruined in one case and not even being considered unethical in the other?
   51. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 14, 2020 at 04:35 PM (#5915744)
So is nothing on the table for 2019?
Supposedly, MLB’s investigation covered 2017 - the present. As noted in #43, most teams caught on, and used more complex signs that they changed more often (with obvious effects on pace of play). Maybe the MLB memo belatedly had some deterrent effect, or the Astros realized that player turnover made them increasingly vulnerable to detection, or more likely IMHO, that listening for the trash can that seldom rang was distracting to their hitters.
   52. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 14, 2020 at 04:39 PM (#5915749)
The player punishment issue is discussed quite a bit in the other thread. I think there's widespread agreement that the players deserve punishment and, in an ideal world, would receive it. But in the real world, their testimony was needed. In theory, you didn't necessarily need a lot of player testimonry so ideally you get that from the "least guilty" players and go after the most guilty parties. But then you run into the culture of not ratting out other players. Realistically Manfred/investigators/"prosecutors" had to decide who to bring the hammer down on and they, rightly IMO, brought it down on Luhnow and Hinch (and presumably Cora). I also get the sense, from that passage of the report, that Manfred is highly confident there was a lot of dodgy stuff going on in Luhnow's frat house but this is what he could prove.
Yeah, I think as a practical matter this is probably the reality. It's just kind of gross that this is all within the context of everyone knowing beyond any doubt that the union would have made it as hard as possible to punish guilty players.
   53. Kiko Sakata Posted: January 14, 2020 at 04:51 PM (#5915751)
What is the moral/ethical difference between a player stealing live signals and a camera stealing live signals? Is the difference large enough to justify people losing jobs and possibly having careers ruined in one case and not even being considered unethical in the other?


Sports are built entirely around their rules. Why don't right-handed batters run to third base when they hit the ball - it's closer? Why don't soccer players just pick the ball up and throw it. The entire enterprise of Major League Baseball only exists within the pre-determined set of rules. So, for me, the "moral" and "ethical" thing to do is to simply follow the rules. If it's against the rules, it's immoral/unethical; if it's not against the rules, it's moral/ethical. And if folks think something shouldn't be done, then they need to make a rule about it.

Now, that said, PEDs potentially become more difficult, because PEDs have health (and legal) implications outside of the sport itself. But I don't think there are any non-baseball externalities related to how signs are stolen. Which leads me to the default position: the moral/ethical thing to do is to follow the rules.
   54. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 14, 2020 at 05:07 PM (#5915754)
All I have to offer on Hinch / Luhnow / Cora is this:

With perfect timing, in the same breath that MLB is up in arms about cheating, it's striking a deal with MGM Casinos to be its "official gaming partner", with betting action available on every bleeping PITCH.

Some juxtapositions are just too marvelous for words, and I doubt if MLB will find any words on that subject.
   55. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: January 14, 2020 at 05:10 PM (#5915755)
What is the moral/ethical difference between a player stealing live signals and a camera stealing live signals?


I don't really think of it in moral/ethical terms. There is a pearl-clutching element to all the discussion of this that is similar to the PED stuff that I find equally obnoxious. However, I do believe that using a camera (or other technology of that ilk) to steal signs should be against the rules. As a catcher I can do a lot of things to make sure no one but the pitcher is picking up the signs. With a camera as we've seen there is virtually nothing to be done and of course it also becomes a lot easier to pass the information to someone (bang goes the trashcan) immediately.

Is the difference large enough to justify people losing jobs and possibly having careers ruined in one case and not even being considered unethical in the other?


Probably not. I think this is a bit like the Braves people that got vaporized for the Latin America stuff a couple of years ago and the Astros and Sox are taking the hit to send the message to everyone else that this is against the rules and thus should not be done. Forget about the moral/ethical issue and just look at it from a rules standpoint. There are rules for stuff in sports and it just becomes a function of the league deciding on penalties. The one year suspension may seem unfair or excessive to you but now that the line has been drawn everyone knows what is going on. There can be no "hey I didn't know" aspect to it.

Long story short I don't view this as a moral thing. The Astros/Sox broke some rules and are being punished. Once that punishment is complete there is no reason the people involved shouldn't be given a second chance.
   56. pikepredator Posted: January 14, 2020 at 05:30 PM (#5915760)
There is a pearl-clutching element to all the discussion of this that is similar to the PED stuff that I find equally obnoxious.


I don't know why this camera-video-sign-stealing thing bugs me as much as it does. It just feels . . . different. Which isn't much of a rationale. PED taking didn't bother me, I saw it as one of those things that crept into the game, slowly accelerated, everybody knew it was going on since at least the mid-80's (sounds like late 70's) . . . and then 15 or 20 years later people were "shocked!" at something that I as a 12-year old in 1987 saw as clear as day. All that faux outrage annoyed me and I didn't know why they didn't put a stop to it back when Canseco was flexing in Fenway, if it was actually that big of a deal.

Sign-stealing from second base doesn't bother me - it has to be fast and efficient and it's been part of the game forever. It's "fair".

This one feels . . . different. I don't have a logical reason per se but I definitely had an "oh come on that is so lame, you guys are losers" reaction. They implement relay and players are jumping all over themselves to abuse the system.
   57. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 14, 2020 at 05:34 PM (#5915762)
I definitely had an "oh come on that is so lame, you guys are losers" reaction.
Exactly. It's a prime example of twerpery, as in, "stop being twerps and compete based on your actual baseball playing abilities." As I've said before, I would give the commissioner very broad powers to punish twerpery in whatever form it occurs.
   58. . Posted: January 14, 2020 at 05:50 PM (#5915765)
Spying is pretty clearly more obnoxious and unethical than a player relaying what he's able to see in plain view. A proper ethical cosmos wouldn't give full weight to a team that isn't able to hide its signals from plain view detection, wherein it obviously would if the signals were surreptitiously spied upon and effectively stolen.

Consider Europe. Woman walks on topless beach, it's ok to take a quick, unobtrusive plain view. Camera in the changing room? Not so much.
   59. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: January 14, 2020 at 05:54 PM (#5915770)
56 - That's fair. I'm with you that I view this as worse than the PED thing too. I just was reacting more to Walt phrasing the question as an ethical/moral one (and he's not alone on that). I think it is very reasonable to say that this is completely out of bounds I just see it as a rule breaking thing rather than a moral failing thing if that makes any sense (and if it doesn't I'll survive).
   60. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 14, 2020 at 05:56 PM (#5915771)
What is the moral/ethical difference between a player stealing live signals and a camera stealing live signals? Is the difference large enough to justify people losing jobs and possibly having careers ruined in one case and not even being considered unethical in the other?
Players stealing signs through their own observations is skill that has been part of the game for over a century, misuse of video technology that was recently introduced as part of the replay process is something else. It’s a bit much to claim there was any doubt about the rules governing video technology after the September 15, 2017 MLB Memo. That’s what the people & teams involved were punished for.
   61. vortex of dissipation Posted: January 14, 2020 at 06:15 PM (#5915776)
Players stealing signs through their own observations is skill that has been part of the game for over a century, misuse of video technology that was recently introduced as part of the replay process is something else.


True. But it's also true that teams have been using whatever technology was available to them to steal signs and relay them for over a century. This is from 1900:

Morgan Murphy, a backup catcher who played all of eleven games for the Phillies in 1900, would sit in the clubhouse and read the catcher’s signs using opera glasses.

Then, using a telegraph, he would relay those signs through a wire running under the outfield to a buzzer under the third base coaches’ box. The third base coach would then let the hitter know what was coming. It was seemingly the perfect scheme, until the plot was uncovered on September 17, 1900 when the Philadelphia Phillies were facing the Cincinnati Reds.
Reds shortstop Tommy Corcoran, who had been pressed into duty as the third base coach, was the one who uncovered the plot. He uncovered the wire in the coaching box, which, upon investigation, led back to the telegraph machine and Murphy. And so ended one of the great sign stealing escapades in MLB history.

   62. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: January 14, 2020 at 06:18 PM (#5915777)
Electronic sign stealing was explicitly against the rules -- a rule that teams were specifically notified about prior to the 2018 season. Maybe the punishment was too severe or not severe enough, but it does seem like a stern punishment was required for the Comissioner's office to have any real authority going forward.
   63. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: January 14, 2020 at 06:41 PM (#5915783)
62 nails it.
   64. Busted Flush Posted: January 14, 2020 at 06:46 PM (#5915786)
Has the union ever not opposed something that MLB wanted to do?

A-Rod’s suspension.
   65. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: January 14, 2020 at 07:41 PM (#5915797)
Cora out.
   66. Esoteric Posted: January 14, 2020 at 07:53 PM (#5915802)
Alex Cora has been fired as Red Sox manager. They're saving time by getting ahead of the inevitable MLB discipline.
   67. puck Posted: January 14, 2020 at 08:20 PM (#5915813)
Don't know if this should be a separate thread, interesting Passan reporting: Why anger is boiling behind the scenes about Houston Astros' sign-stealing punishments

"Crane won," [a team president] said. "The entire thing was programmed to protect the future of the franchise. He got his championship. He keeps his team. His fine is nothing. The sport lost, but Crane won."
   68. yo la tengo Posted: January 14, 2020 at 08:20 PM (#5915814)
Does any of this reach into Flushing? Is Beltran, a first time manager to be, in a delicate position here?
   69. Itchy Row Posted: January 14, 2020 at 08:27 PM (#5915816)
At the end of the regular season, the managers of the last five World Series winners (plus 2010 and 2012 for Bochy) were still with the team they won with. All of them are now gone from those jobs. Davey Martinez is the only manager who won with his current team.
   70. flournoy Posted: January 14, 2020 at 10:06 PM (#5915830)
So with A.J. Hinch suspended, who will manage the 2020 AL All-Star team?
   71. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 14, 2020 at 10:13 PM (#5915833)
So with A.J. Hinch suspended, who will manage the 2020 AL All-Star team?
Aaron Boone would seem like the logical choice - Manager of last season’s other ALCS team.
   72. winnipegwhip Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:20 PM (#5915848)
Why anyone worries about whether the guy gets a future job when he has made more in a year than any of us will make in our lives is beyond me.
   73. asinwreck Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:27 PM (#5915849)
Does any of this reach into Flushing? Is Beltran, a first time manager to be, in a delicate position here?

Should be some fun press conferences in Queens this season.
   74. SoSH U at work Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:37 PM (#5915851)
Aaron Boone would seem like the logical choice - Manager of last season’s other ALCS team.


Eyeballing it, it seems the last time the pennant-winning manager wasn't available was in 1982, when Bob Lemon had been canned during one of George's annual midseason managerial swappages. In that case, it was the previous year runner-up (Billy Martin). Three years earlier, Bob Lemon kept the gig despite being fired before the game, replaced, of course, by Billy Martin, rather than the White Rat.

LaRussa came out of retirement to manage the NL squad in 2002. And in 1985, the all-star game was the final one of Dick Howser's career, retiring after the contest.

   75. pthomas Posted: January 15, 2020 at 12:24 AM (#5915855)
Hinch could have just moved the trash can and stopped the whole thing.
   76. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: January 15, 2020 at 12:46 AM (#5915858)
What is the moral/ethical difference between a player stealing live signals and a camera stealing live signals?


One difference is that whereas both teams can look at the other team on the field, the home team gets an advantage with respect to video equipment. This sort of scheme was not available to the visiting team. Trying to gain an advantage not available to your opponent is part of the definition of cheating.
   77. Karl from NY Posted: January 15, 2020 at 10:07 AM (#5915916)
What is the moral/ethical difference between a player stealing live signals and a camera stealing live signals?

One argument is that that's where a clear distinct line can be drawn. You really can't legislate against someone seeing and using information on the field, but the presence of any electronic device is a pretty unmistakable yes-or-no question.

Although I'm wondering what you could still do without any electronics. Seems quite possible to station someone in the CF stands with binoculars and a flag to wave. Maybe the case against that is it'd be visible enough to the other team that they would easily catch on.

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