The Washington Nationals got a break.
The Astros had to play the game by the rules during the 2019 World Series in light of what was an ongoing investigation by Major League Baseball into the Astros stealing signs from the opposition en route to knocking off the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series.
Major League Baseball has suspended Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for the actions appearing under their watch, which resulted in Astros owner Jim Crane immediately firing both men.
Hinch manned up to his responsbility while Luhnow tried to portray himself as a victim of his staff.
More suspensions are likely to come. Luhnow pointed the finger at current Red Sox manager Joey Cora as the organizer of the sign-stealing plan. Cora was the bench coach of the Astros during the 2017 season. Newly-named Mets manager Carlos Beltran was the only Astros player mentioned in the investigation, but in light of the fact he was a player at the time he was not subject to penalties assessed by commissioner Rob Manfred.
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.
That makes you wonder if Luhnow was paying attention to the activities of his staff.
Kevin Goldstein, a special assistant to Luhnow, wrote an email to team scouts prior to the 2017 playoffs asking them to spy on opposing teams' dugouts in an attempt to "steal signs and suggesting the potential use of cameras to do so."
The missive to scouts also explained, "What we are looking for is how much we can see, how we would log things, if we need cameras/binoculars, etc. So go to game, see what you can (or can’t) do and report back your findings.”
There were questions at the time Luhnow left the St. Louis Cardinals to become the general manager of the Astros about the fact Luhnow had cleared out files from his office before Cardinals officials, who were in attendance at MLB's winter meetings at that time, received a phone call from another front office employee who informed them that Luhnow accepted the job with the Astros.
In reality, Luhnow got off easy compared to Christoper Correa, the scouting director in St. Louis after Luhnow went to Houston. Correa was sentenced to four years in prison in July of 2016 by a federal judge for hacking the Astros' player-personnel database and email system between 2013 and 2014, at which time Luhnow had become the general manager in Houston. He also was ordered by the court to pay $279,038 in restitution, and given a lifetime suspension by Major League Baseball
Correa used the information in preparing for the amatuer draft, which is a bit ironic in light of the fact that since the 2012 post-draft firing OF Bobby Heck, who was the scouting director at the time Luhnow was hired, the drafts have produced one established big-league player -- third baseman Alex Bregman with the second selection overall in the 2015 draft.
The only other first-round drafts in the Luhnow era who have even appeared in the big leagues are outfielders Kyle Tucker, a compensation selection who was selected fifth in that 2015 draft, and Derek Fisher, the 37th selection overall in 2014. Tucker has hit .206 in 50 games, 131 at-bats, at the big league level. Fisher has hit .191 in 151 games, 371 at-bats.
The Astros had the first selection overall in the 2013 and 2014 draft, selecting pitchers Brady Aiken and Marty Appel, neither of whom appeared in a big-league game.