The illegal sign-stealing scheme the Houston Astros used may have helped the team to its 2017 World Series win. And it may have helped establish front office head Jeff Luhnow and on-field manager A.J. Hinch, and the quantitative "Astroball," method of designing a team as being on baseball's cutting edge.
But while the star-studded team should remain a contender, the scandal cost Hinch and Luhnow their jobs and, maybe, their reputations. How much they've lost, and whether they'll bounce back or see their careers end, is the question.
Both Hinch and Luhnow were suspended from baseball this week for a year, a move followed quickly by team owner Jim Crane's decision to fire both men.
"Neither one of them started this, but neither one of them did anything about it," Astros owner Jim Crane said Monday. "We need to move forward with a clean slate."
How Much Money Did Cheating Cost?
Financial details of Hinch's and Luhnow's most recent contracts aren't publicly available.
But in 2018, Hinch earned $1.2 million and signed a four-year extension to remain the Astros' skipper through 2022. It's safe to assume his salary would have gone up after 2018, when Hinch was the 18th highest-paid manager in the game, according to USA Today.
The financial details of Luhnow's contract as president of baseball operations, which he also renewed in 2018, and which ran through 2023, also weren't disclosed. But Luhnow, widely considered the architect of Houston's rise from one of the worst teams in baseball to champions, likely was paid, coming off the World Series win, in line with some of the other highly successful front office leaders in baseball, such as Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman who reportedly signed for $5 million a year in 2017.
The bigger question may be whether Hinch, 45, or Luhnow, 53, have ended their careers.
One Of The Most Successful Execs
Luhnow's abilities can't really be questioned. Even in his statement handing down the suspensions of the two men, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred acknowledged Luhnow is "one of the most successful baseball executives of his generation, credited with ushering in the second 'analytics' revolution in baseball and rebuilding the Houston Astros into a perennial Postseason contender."
But, Manfred said, there were plenty of problems, according to the nearly 70 interviews done for the investigation.
"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," Manfred wrote.
Whether that makes Luhnow unhireable once he is eligible to return will remain to be seen, but it would seem likely that plenty of clubs would be willing to take a chance in exchange for building a winner.
Luhnow, for his part, said he didn't direct any cheating and wasn’t aware the sign stealing was happening.
Hinch Remorseful, Contrite
Hinch will almost certainly find more work in baseball, particularly after mitigating comments in Manfred's report giving him credit for "contrition" and remorse over not having stopped the sign-stealing.
He'll be eligible to manage again in 2021.
The team also loses money, facing a $5 million fine from the league. The Astros also must give up their first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.
Photo credit: Elsapo, Wikimedia
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