Astros’ AJ Hinch, Jeff Luhnow respond after being fired over 2017 sign-stealing scheme

HOUSTON – Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday after both were suspended without pay by Major League Baseball for the 2020 season.

Astros owner Jim Crane made the announcement at a news conference about MLB’s findings of its investigation into allegations that the Astros stole signs during the 2017 season.

The Astros are also required to forfeit their first- and second-round picks in both the 2020 and the 2021 draft. A fine of $5 million was also leveled against the team. It’s the highest fine allowable under the league’s constitution, according to MLB.

“Today is a very difficult day for the Houston Astros,” Crane said, adding that he is going above and beyond the league’s punishment to address the scandal.

Astros owner Jim Crane talks about his decision to fire A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow over a sign-stealing scheme.
Astros owner Jim Crane talks about his decision to fire A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow over a sign-stealing scheme.

The punishment came after a report by The Athletic last month that the Astros allegedly stole signs during home games of their 2017 World Series championship season by using a camera position in center field.

Sign-stealing scheme

According to the league’s factual findings report, members of the team would bang a trash can with a bat or massage gun to communicate an upcoming pitch type to a batter. The scheme was mostly driven by players, but former bench coach Alex Cora was involved in setting it up.

“The conduct described herein has caused fans, players, executives at other MLB clubs and members of the media to raise questions about the integrity of games in which the Astros participated,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in a written statement about the league’s investigation. “While it is impossible to determine whether the conduct actually impacted the results on the field, the perception of some that it did causes significant harm to the game.”

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The scheme was mostly driven by players, but former Astros bench coach Alex Cora was involved in setting it up, according to the report. Cora is now with the Boston Red Sox, which is also under investigation by MLB for similar allegations stemming from the 2018 season.

The investigation found "no evidence” that Crane knew about the scheme.

Ex-Astro also disciplined

Former Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman was also punished with a yearlong suspension. Taubman was booted from the club in October after remarks made to a female reporter in the locker room following the team’s American League championship win.

Future of team

Crane said no Astros players will be suspended because of the scandal.

He said the search for a new manager and general manager will begin immediately and the team “will move as quickly as we can.”

Crane said he believes there are both internal and external candidates that can fill both jobs, but he didn’t release any specifics.

Luhnow responds to firing

Luhnow said in a statement released Monday night that he is not a cheater but accepts responsibility as general manager of the Astros. His full statement follows:

"I accept responsibility for rules violations that occurred on my watch as President of Baseball Operations and General Manager of the Astros. I apologize to the Astros organization, Astros fans and the Houston community for the shame and embarrassment this has caused. I am deeply grateful to Jim Crane for the opportunity to lead baseball operations.

"I am not a cheater. Anybody who has worked closely with me during my 32year career inside and outside baseball can attest to my integrity. I did not know rules were being broken. As the Commissioner set out in his statement, I did not personally direct, oversee or engage in any misconduct: The signstealing initiative was not planned or directed by baseball management; the trash-can banging was driven and executed by players, and the video decoding of signs originated and was executed by lower-level employees working with the bench coach. I am deeply upset that I wasn’t informed of any misconduct because I would have stopped it.

“I agree with Mr. Crane that our baseball operations team has achieved far more positives beyond this significant negative. Many very good people have worked, and continue to work, for the Astros organization. I am extremely proud of the many executives throughout the industry who were trained and promoted in our department.”

Hinch responds to firing

Hinch said in a statement released Monday that he regrets being connected to the Astros cheating scandal and is disappointed by the club’s actions. His entire statement follows:

"I appreciate Commissioner Manfred‘s unwavering commitment to upholding the best interests of baseball. I regret being connected to these events, am disappointed in our club‘s actions within this timeline, and I accept the Commissioner’s decision.

"As a leader and Major League Manager, it is my responsibility to lead players and staff with integrity that represents the game in the best possible way. 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.

"I apologize to Mr. Crane for all negative reflections this may have had on him and the Astros organization. To the fans, thank you for your continued support through this challenging time - and for this team. I apologize to all of you for our mistakes but I’m confident we will learn from it - and I personally commit to work tirelessly to ensure I do.

“My time in Houston has provided some of the greatest moments in my career and those memories will always be near and dear to me and my family. 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.”

Houston mayor responds to Astros fallout

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner released the following statement about the Astros scandal:

"Being loyal fans of Houston sports teams means that we stand with them in good times and during times of challenge. Today is a difficult day. As a city, we extend our hearts to an Astros’ organization that is hurting.

"The Houston Astros carried us on their shoulders during the 2017 World Series championship season. We will never forget how they played with passion and made us proud.

"Now, it is our turn to carry the Astros on our shoulders and lift the owner, coaches, and players as they focus on moving the organization beyond this challenge.

“I commend Houston Astros’ owner Jim Crane for going over and above what was required by Major League Baseball. “As a city, we look forward to the start of spring training and the next season. The Astros are world-class champions on and off the field at all times.”

Full MLB report

Below is the full factual findings report published by MLB on Tuesday. Having trouble viewing the embedded document? Click here.

About the Author:

Aaron Barker has been a senior digital editor at KPRC 2 since 2016. As a meteorologist, he specializes in stories about the weather. He has covered Hurricane Harvey, the Astros first World Series win, the Santa Fe High School shooting, the ITC fire and Tropical Storm Imelda.