On Monday morning, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the long-awaited punishment for the Houston Astros, as a result of the sign-stealing investigation.
BREAKING: Per sources, MLB’s penalties for #Astros include:
*One-year suspensions for GM Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch.
*Losses of 1st and 2nd round draft picks in both 2020 and ‘21.
*A fine of $5M.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 13, 2020
The punishments, listed in the above tweet, were not nearly enough. Not only did the Astros disrespect the integrity of the game, but their cheating resulted in demotions and tarnished legacies.
There is no doubt Rob Manfred had a difficult task in assessing the Astros punishment. However, it would have been better to go a little overboard than to go light on them, as he did.
Did the Houston Astros get what they deserved for cheating?
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) January 13, 2020
The first part of Houston’s punishment, taking away their round one and two picks in 2020 and 2021, was well-intentioned, yet not enough. All four of those picks will be in the back of their round, meaning Houston isn’t missing out on much premier young talent. Also, Houston will still have a first round pick this year as compensation for losing Gerrit Cole in free agency.
Manfred also decided not to touch Houston’s international pool money, meaning they can still sign young talent overseas. To only take a total of four draft picks and not even touch Houston’s international pool money, is a missed opportunity from MLB.
The second part of Houston’s punishment is the $5 Million fine. While this is pennies for Houston, it is the maximum fine allowed under the Major League Constitution, so Manfred can’t be blamed for this. As referenced earlier, digging into their international pool money would have been a logical way to make up for this minuscule fine.
I’ve been told Astros 2017 title was worth about an extra $60M. Not just extra gear sold, but ticket price increase, larger crowds next season, higher prices to sponsors for being associated with the champs, price of commercials for radio and TV broadcasts spike, etc.
— Pedro Gomez (@pedrogomezESPN) January 14, 2020
Lastly, manager A.J. Hinch and President of Baseball Operations Jeff Luhnow were both suspended a year. According to Manfred, he found neither one to be deeply involved with the sign-stealing scheme, but both turned a blind eye rather than putting a stop to it. Despite this, a one year suspension is not enough.
Baseball managers are easily replaceable, so Hinch’s absence for a year would not mean much regarding Houston’s 2020 success. As for Luhnow, he is eligible to return immediately after the 2020 World Series, meaning he could still work during the off-season, when the bulk of transactions take place. The only big event he’d really be missing out on is the 2020 trade deadline.
When assessing the punishment, the most important thing to consider is if it will be a deterrent to teams from cheating in the future. Draft picks and money are meant to eventually lead to a World Series, and I think all 29 other teams would trade four picks, five million dollars, and a one-year hiatus to get the World Series up front and the financial benefits (that well exceed $5M) to come with it.
Penalties are way too light for the Astros and there should be more imo.
Would you want the Dodgers to give 4 draft picks, pay $5 million and suspended Dave and Friedman for 1 year to win a World Series title? I think 99% of fans would make that trade.
— Blake (@ByBlakeWilliams) January 13, 2020
Thankfully, Astros owner Jim Crane stepped up firing both of them, which relieved MLB of a lot of backlash. Credit to Crane, the valuable precedent of cheating leading to being fired has been set. Manfred dropped the ball, but Crane picked it right back up.
One last nugget to think about is the absence of any player punishment in what Manfred described as a “player driven scheme”. It’s made clear by the report that the masterminds behind the operation were the players and bench coach Alex Cora. So why do the players get off scot-free?
“Virtually all of the Astros’ players had some involvement or knowledge of the scheme…” pic.twitter.com/2I8i4yp1ez
— Future Dodgers (@FutureDodgers) January 13, 2020
Manfred makes a good point in that it would be difficult to pick out which players were involved and which weren’t. However, the message being sent here is that it is okay to cheat, as long as a large group of players are involved. Manfred had an opportunity to give the true architects of the cheating scheme what they deserved, but once again fell short.