Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, manager A.J. Hinch fired by owner Jim Crane for roles in cheating scandal

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane announced Monday that manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow have been fired. Crane’s decision came shortly after MLB announced penalties for the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in 2017. As part of those penalties, Hinch and Luhnow were each suspended for one year.  Crane, though, said he was going over and above those penalties and relieved Hinch and Luhnow of their duties. 

He is expected to oversee baseball operations department in the interim. According to multiple reports, current Astros bench coach Joe Espada will be named interim manager. Espada, 44, had been a candidate for multiple managerial openings earlier this offseason.

Hinch, 45, spent the last five seasons as manager of the Astros. Over that span, he led the team to a record of 481-329 (.594). Along the way, Hinch managed them to four playoff berths, three division crowns, and the World Series title in 2017. Prior to leading the Astros, Hinch for parts of the 2009 and 2010 seasons managed the Diamondbacks. He was 89-123 (.420) with Arizona. 

Luhnow, 53, had been GM of the Astros since just after the 2011 season. On Luhnow’s watch, the Astros undertook a deep and controversial rebuild that saw them lose 310 games through his first three seasons. Along the way, though, they stockpiled an impressive core of young talent. Starting in 2015, Luhnow’s efforts began bearing fruit. They claimed an AL wild card spot that season and two years later defeated the Dodgers in the World Series. 

During that run of success, however, the Astros were leveraging technology to steal signs from the opposition, as we now know and as MLB‘s investigation proved. According to a report released last December, Astros personnel admitted to MLB that the club used a center-field video camera to relay catcher-pitcher signs in real time. MLB’s months-long investigation started shortly after The Athletic’s November bombshell report and it covered the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons. Investigators interviewed more than 60 witnesses and gathered 76,000 emails as part the probe. Crane on Monday prior to announcing the firings of Hinch and Luhnow said, “We accept their decisions and findings and penalties.”

After their firings, both Luhnow and Hinch released statements. Here’s Luhnow’s: 

And here’s the response from Hinch, who issued an apology to Crane and Astros fans:

One aspect of the report Crane mildly pushed back against was the criticism of the Astros’ internal culture. Here’s what MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said about the club’s culture in his Monday statement

But while no one can dispute that Luhnow’s baseball operations department is an industry leader in its analytics, it is very clear to me that the culture of the baseball operations department, manifesting itself in the way its employees are treated, its relations with other Clubs, and its relations with the media and external stakeholders, has been very problematic. 

Perhaps that indictment from the commissioner will prompt Crane to look outside the organization for Luhnow’s permanent replacement.

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