Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has handed out unprecedented penalties to the Astros for illegally stealing signs.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch are both suspended through the 2020 World Series, and the club will receive a $5 million fine, the maximum allowed under MLB's constitution. Houston must also forfeit first- and second-round draft picks in both 2020 and 2021.
No players will be punished, and the league chose only to discipline those in positions of authority. Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who served as Houston's bench coach in 2017, will be disciplined after MLB concludes its investigation into the Red Sox' alleged sign stealing in 2018.
An hour after MLB released its report on its Astros investigation, owner Jim Crane announced that the club fired Hinch and Luhnow.
"When I found out, I was very upset. We want to be known as playing by the rules," Crane said. "Neither one of those guys implemented this or pushed it through the system...but neither one of them did anything about it. That's unfortunate and the consequences are severe."
The allegations against the Astros first came to light in a November report by The Athletic when former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers accused his former team of using a centerfield camera to steal catchers' signs. The pitches were then relayed to batters by a teammate or teammates banging on a trash can in the dugout.
"I regret being connected to these events, am disappointed in our club's actions within this timeline, and I accept the Commissioner's decision," Hinch said a statement.
"While the evidence consistently showed I didn't endorse or participate in the sigh stealing practices, I failed to stop them and I am deeply sorry."
Luhnow added that he accepts responsibility for the rules violations that occurred while he was the team's president and GM, but that he did not know rules were being broken.
"I am not a cheater," Luhnow said in his statement. "Anybody who has worked closely with me during my 32-year career inside and outside baseball can attest to my integrity."
The report came amidst an already turbulent time for the Astros as MLB was conducting an investigation into the organization's culture. The probe was launched when Sports Illustrated's Stephanie Apstein reported in October that then-assistant general manager Brandon Taubman directed inappropriate comments about closer Roberto Osuna at three female reporters. Two days later, the Astros fired Taubman.
Taubman will be placed on baseball's ineligible list.
Allegations of sign stealing have extended beyond 2017 and the Astros. Last fall, the Yankees accused Houston of whistling to communicate pitches during the American League Championship Series. In 2017, MLB fined the Red Sox for using Apple Watches to steal signs against the Yankees at Fenway Park.
The Athletic reported in early January that MLB is investigating Boston for improper use of the team's video replay room in 2018 to learn and then communicate opponents' pitching signs to baserunners.