MLB players, execs on sign-stealing scandal: Astros’ tarnished rep, what they knew and more

MLB players, execs on sign-stealing scandal: Astros’ tarnished rep, what they knew and more

Two of the game’s brightest minds, Alex Cora and AJ Hinch, are now unemployed, forced to confront the possibility that their suddenly tainted reputations might prevent them from ever managing again. Two of the sport’s most dominant teams, the 2017 Houston Astros and the 2018 Boston Red Sox, now shoulder the reputation of cheaters, their illegal sign-stealing practices spoiling the memories of their greatness.

It has been an unimaginably dispiriting start to the 2020s for Major League Baseball, and this might only be the beginning.

The Astros have been hit with an array of penalties that include year-long suspensions for their two most important employees, the loss of four draft picks within the first two rounds and the largest allowable fine. But the Red Sox, who got out in front of looming punishment by firing Cora on Tuesday evening, are next. And other teams might eventually be incriminated in one of the biggest cheating scandals in sports history.

Many, as you might imagine, have thoughts. ESPN spoke to more than 15 executives, coaches, scouts and players about key topics surrounding the Astros’ cheating scandal — from the stiffness of the penalties to the perceptions of wrongdoing to potential ways to prevent it. Opinions were provided under the condition of anonymity because MLB asked its personnel not to comment.

The 2020 Astros were not hurt nearly enough

A longtime executive went through the penalties to illustrate how the Astros were not necessarily harmed in a big-picture sense.

• A $5 million fine? Chump change for a team that profited far more than that by winning the World Series, and something that probably pales in comparison to not having to pay Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow during their season-long suspensions.

• The loss of a first- and second-round pick in the 2020 and 2021 drafts? Successful teams pick later, which lessens the value of their picks, and they’re constantly giving up future assets for immediate returns.

The longtime exec called those draft picks “a liquidated cost,” and a veteran scout stated the organization “should have been hammered” internationally — an area where the Astros were not penalized whatsoever.

• The biggest blow, it seems, comes from the suspensions of Luhnow and Hinch, the two foundational pieces in the Astros’ resurgence. Both were subsequently fired by owner Jim Crane, who must find a new GM and manager with only weeks remaining until spring training. But the Astros can simply replace them internally, with bench coach Joe Espada expected to be the new manager and assistant GM Pete Putila probably handling most of the baseball-operations work moving forward.

Firing Luhnow and Hinch grants the Astros “a clean slate,” the executive said — a benefit for Crane, given the fallout.

“In one sense, it was on the lighter side because the commish was clear and then they broke the rules some more,” another executive told ESPN.” So this was the least they could do. If this was isolated, maybe it’s not so bad. But they were brazen in breaking the rules.”


Isn’t a tarnished reputation enough?

play

0:53

Glanville: Firing Hinch, Luhnow was the move the Astros had to make

Doug Glanville explains that firing AJ Hinch and Jeff Lunhow was the best move for the Astros so they can set the tone for the organization going forward.

That’s the question a longtime manager posed when asked if the penalties were enough to serve as a deterrent for other teams, making the point that Luhnow and Hinch could struggle to work in baseball again and might never hold such high-profile positions.

“At the end of the day,” the source said, “all we have in this game is our reputation.”

A front-office executive agreed, calling the punishments “stiff” while saying: “I would be surprised if anyone else would want to jeopardize their livelihoods and reputations.”

But some players presented an interesting scenario: If you were to go back in time and tell Crane that he would win the World Series, but then have to suffer through the fallout of this scandal — the fine, the loss of draft picks, the suspensions and subsequent firings of his two most important employees, the public smearing for unethical practices — would he take that deal? The players, emphatically, believe that he would.

And that brings us to another point: The position players who used the system and potentially reaped the benefits were unharmed.

“It’s hard for me not to look at my own numbers against them and be pissed,” a retired major league pitcher said. “Everyone involved deserves to be seriously punished because it’s wrong.”


How can a player-driven scheme not punish any players?

This was definitely on the minds of executives and players alike. And for good reason. One player likened it to giving immunity to a burglar just so he can tell you how he broke into your house and stole your television.

“It makes zero sense,” one rival player said.

But when pushed on how to dole out punishments, that same player was at a loss. Another player might have summed it up best.

MLB News

via http://www.espn.com – MLB http://www.espn.com

January 15, 2020 at 04:03AM

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