Astros fire manager A.J. Hinch, GM Jeff Luhnow after MLB bans in cheating scandal

Jan. 13 (UPI) — Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were fired Monday after Major League Baseball issued one-season suspensions for their connection to a sign-stealing scheme.

A league investigation confirmed the Astros cheated during the regular season and postseason of their World Series-winning 2017 campaign. According to MLB, the Astros used a camera-based system to steal signs of opposing teams.

Luhnow and Hinch were suspended for the 2020 season, but Astros owner Jim Crane said the club wanted to go beyond the league’s ruling.

“Today is a very difficult day for the Houston Astros,” Crane told reporters Monday. “MLB did a very thorough investigation and the Astros fully cooperated and we accept their decisions and findings and penalties. … I felt with what came out in the report they both had responsibilities. Neither one of them started this, but neither one of them did anything about it.”

Crane said he didn’t believe the Astros’ World Series title in 2017 was “tainted” by the league’s findings. MLB said its probe found Crane was unaware of the sign-stealing scheme by his team.

Luhnow and Hinch were suspended despite neither having involvement with the scheme. According to the league, Hinch protested twice by trying to damage the monitor used in the operation. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred nevertheless held both responsible.

As part of MLB’s investigation, the Astros will lose first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021. The franchise also was fined a record $5 million.

The league said in its statement that if Hinch or Luhnow “engage in any future material violations” of MLB rules, they will be placed on the permanently ineligible list.

Crane didn’t provide a timetable for naming replacements for Hinch and Luhnow. No players were disciplined in what Manfred called a “player-driven” operation.

Luhnow served as the Astros’ general manager since 2011. Hinch managed the club since 2015 and guided Houston to two World Series appearances.