After a lengthy investigation, Major League Baseball announced punishments to the Houston Astros for using technology to cheat during their 2017 World Championship season. The Astros defeated the Yankees in seven games during that year’s ALCS, but Houston’s victory over New York and the Dodgers in the World Series will now forever be tainted.
This has to be infuriating news for the Yankees and their fans but everyone can take solace in knowing that the Astros essentially cheated their way to a championship in 2017. Major League Baseball confirmed in their statement that the sign-stealing continued during Houston’s postseason run.
The punishments handed down by Commissioner Rob Manfred were unprecedented and certainly deserving. GM Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch were both suspended for the entirety of the 2020 season. After the news was broke Astros chairman Jim Crane held a press conference announcing the firing of both men which was probably done to help his orgnaization save face. In addition to the suspensions, the Astros were fined $5M and will lose their first and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 MLB Drafts.
It was also revealed that Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was the Astros bench in 2017 was basically the ring leader and the mastermind of the cheating scheme along with new Mets manager Carlos Beltran. Beltran was a player at the time so he will not face discipline but an even bigger punishment is likely coming for Cora very soon.
That is once MLB finishes their investigation of the 2018 Red Sox who were also recently accused of engaging in electronic sign-stealing during their World Championship season. The Yankees were eliminated from the postseason that year by Boston during the ALDS in four games.
In the report released by MLB, it was reported that the cheating scheme was mostly player-driven and that Hinch was against what was going on. According to Manfred, Hinch actually attempted to physically damage the monitor used to steal the signs on two occasions but he didn’t do anything to ultimately stop the garbage can banging system. He and Luhnow both knew what was happening and for that reason alone they deserved to be suspended.
From a Yankees standpoint, today’s news only confirms what they had previously thought was going on and have been for the past three seasons. Former skipper Joe Girardi told reporters earlier this offseason at the Winter Meetings that he wasn’t shocked about the allegations. Girardi reportedly would have been let go as Yankees manager even if they made it to the World Series in 2017 but you can help but think the Astros cheating played a role in him losing his job which is a real shame.
It’s also a bummer knowing that Astros star and Yankee killer Jose Altuve won the AL MVP in 2017 over Aaron Judge. It might be unfair to say that the sign-stealing was the main reason why Altuve was able to come away with the award, but I find it hard to believe that it didn’t help his performance in some way.
Moving forward, today’s news could actually benefit the Yankees in 2020. They’re already the clear cut favorites to win it all next season and now their top competition in the American League is surrounded by uncertainty without their manager or GM. The punishments handed down to Houston won’t impact any of their players but I don’t think it would be a surprise if they took a step back next season with all the turmoil plaguing the organization.
As for the Red Sox, I don’t think the Yankees are all that worried about them heading into next season anyway. Their championship window is rapidly closing and after MLB finishes up with their investigation Boston will likely be in even worse shape than they were when they finished 19 games out of first place a season ago.