What the Astros Might Deserve

There are many pieces detailing how the Astros appear to have cheated by using video to steal signs in real-time. Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich wrote a lengthy piece for The Athletic with quotes from former Astros’ pitcher Mike Fiers detailing the team’s practices in 2017. The basics are in that piece, but there are a several more that discuss what the team was reportedly doing and how they did it. We don’t yet know all the facts; it is still unclear precisely how long the team engaged in this practice, and who all of the responsible parties are. But what the evidence makes pretty clear is that the Astros stole signs with the aid of advanced technology and relayed those signs to hitters during games. That’s cheating.

What the Astros and their employees might receive in terms of punishment for engaging in that practice is less clear, though multiple precedents have been set to guide the league’s possible enforcement. Perhaps you’re of the mind that the consequences Astros deserve to suffer is to have won fewer games, including their 2017 World Series. But such an extreme result is unlikely. Astros wins and championship banners probably won’t be taken away or vacated like a farcical college athletics penalty. Even when players are caught cheating in the middle of games, the results aren’t vacated. So what might we expect? In looking to past scandals, we can get a glimpse at MLB and Rob Manfred’s approach. There are multiple factors that play into potential punishment, both for individuals and the franchise, but here are a few of the major ones:

  • Is this the first time a team has been penalized for breaking the rules?
  • Was the organization cooperative with MLB’s investigation?
  • How high up the organizational chain does the knowledge and activity go?

For the first factor, let’s consider the Boston Red Sox’s penalty for breaking the rules surrounding signing international free agents. After the club exceeded the allowable pool amount to sign Yoán Moncada, it were restricted from signing any amateur international free agents for more than $300,000. To get around those restrictions, the Red Sox signed less well-regarded players for $300,000 with the expectation that money from some of those lesser players would go to the better players who should have received higher bonuses and were represented by the same agents. When the Red Sox penalty for circumventing the rules came down in 2016, they were prohibited from signing any international free agents for a year, and the players involved were declared free agents, with Boston unable to recoup their signing bonuses, which remained with the players. It was the first time a team had been penalized in this fashion.

Fast forward to the penalties handed down in the Braves case in November 2017. The Braves engaged in a similar scheme as the Red Sox’s, except they did so the year before they spent big on international amateurs. By breaking the rules to stay under their pool level in the 2015-2016 signing period, they were able to spend more in the next period and give multiple players million dollar bonuses, including Kevin Maitan. As a result, the players who were part of the scheme in the 2015-2016 signing period were declared free agents. In addition, the players who the Braves were able to sign in the next period only because of the previous scheme were also declared free agents. The Braves were also unable to recoup the bonuses handed out to these players. This was essentially the same penalty as the Red Sox, except that, because of the way the Braves broke the rules, they lost about ten times more in bonus money. The Braves were prevented from giving out a bonus of more than $10,000 for a year, similar to the Red Sox, but they also received further penalties in the form of a smaller bonus pool in 2020-2021. On top of the organizational penalties, former general manager John Coppolella was permanently banned from working in baseball, while special assistant Gordon Blakely was suspended for a year.

When differentiating the penalties the Braves and the Red Sox received for essentially the same infraction, we can think of the Red Sox’s transgression acting as a warning for the rest of the league. While the Braves’ penalties look a lot more severe, the organizational impact was similar — the difference in severity came in the punishments for individuals. And a cooperative front office matters. When Rob Manfred was asked about potential Cardinals’ penalties for the hacking scandal and how the Red Sox situation compared, he specifically mentioned the Red Sox cooperation as a factor in determining their sanctions:

“I do not see a great parallel between the Red Sox situation and the St. Louis situation, principally for these reasons: The Red Sox, to their credit, accepted organization responsibility for what went on,” Manfred said.

“We don’t have all of the facts in the St. Louis-Houston situation. To date, there has been no implication that this was an organizational problem but there has been an indication that it was one employee, (who) did something inappropriate, the organization found out about it, and fired the employee. Those are very, very different things.”

When discussing the Braves’ international violations, Manfred indicated the Braves were cooperative, but that Coppolella was not. That likely played a role in the severity of the punishment Coppolella received. The Braves hired a new general manager in Alex Anthopolous, while former President of Baseball Operations John Hart also left the organization. Cleaning house helped shift some penalties from the organization to individuals; Manfred cited new leadership in Atlanta as a positive:

“The senior Baseball Operations officials responsible for the misconduct are no longer employed by the Braves,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “I am confident that Terry McGuirk, John Schuerholz, Alex Anthopoulos and their staffs have and will put in place procedures to ensure that this type of conduct never occurs again and which will allow the Club to emerge from this difficult period as the strong and respected franchise that it has always been.”

Similarly, Chris Correa was uncooperative with MLB and received a lifetime ban, though Manfred indicated the organization should still be held responsible:

“Although Mr Correa’s conduct was not authorized by the Cardinals, as a matter of MLB policy, I am holding the Cardinals responsible for his conduct,” Manfred wrote. “A club suffers material harm when an employee of another club illegally accesses its confidential and propriety information, particularly intrusions of the nature and scope present here. In addition, as a result of Mr Correa’s conduct, the Astros suffered substantial negative publicity and had to endure the time, expense and distraction of both a lengthy government investigation and an MLB investigation.”

MLB opted for restitution in that case, awarding the Astros two Cardinals’ draft picks and $2 million; the league presumably believed that Correa going to prison would serve as a sufficient deterrent to future misconduct. That MLB’s investigation didn’t go any higher than Correa likely prevented a front-office shakeup or more severe penalties. That leads to the final factor from above. The last time penalties were meted out for sign-stealing, the lack of organizational knowledge was deemed a plus by Manfred. When the league set down a fine for the Red Sox in 2017, he noted the following:

“In assessing the significance of this violation, the investigation established three relevant points. First, the violation in question occurred without the knowledge of ownership or front office personnel. Second, when the Red Sox learned of the Yankees’ complaint, they immediately halted the conduct in question and then cooperated completely in my investigation. I have received absolute assurances from the Red Sox that there will be no future violations of this type. Third, our investigation revealed that Clubs have employed various strategies to decode signs that do not violate our rules. The Red Sox’ strategy violated our rules because of the use of an electronic device.

“Taking all of these factors as well as past precedent into account, I have decided to fine the Red Sox an undisclosed amount which in turn will be donated by my office to hurricane relief efforts in Florida. Moreover, all 30 Clubs have been notified that future violations of this type will be subject to more serious sanctions, including the possible loss of draft picks.

When we consider the precedent and statements from above, things don’t look especially great for Houston. Manfred issued his statement concerning the Red Sox’s sign-stealing about a week before the Danny Farquhar incident described in the Rosenthal/Drellich piece, so even if the cheating didn’t extend into the playoffs (and the television monitor being removed after a World Series game makes that claim seem dubious), there’s still evidence of the Astros cheating after Manfred announced that more severe penalties would follow future incidents. Emails from special assistant to the general manager Kevin Goldstein to scouts about stealing signs with cameras further would seem to indicate an organizational problem. And an incident involving the Astros in the 2018 postseason, which Jeff Luhnow’s attributed to the team being on the lookout for illegal sign-stealing, would make it difficult for Luhnow to claim he was unaware that his own organization might be engaging in their own sign-stealing when he was constantly watching other teams for the same behavior. MLB solidifying other rules around the practice heading into the 2019 season shows further efforts by the Commissioner to clean up electronic sign-stealing, efforts of which the Astros were surely aware.

As for the current scope of the investigation, Manfred took a position ahead of the owner’s meetings yesterday, indicating that the investigation is currently focused on the Astros and issuing some strong statements on potential penalties:

While the investigation could eventually cover others teams and players, that will probably be of little help to Houston. Much of the coverage of the scandal hints at other teams engaging in sign-stealing themselves, and Ken Rosenthal has advocated for a very broad investigation based on what he’s heard, but has not yet been able to confirm. How pervasive the practice is, and how closely the behavior of other teams resembles that of the Astros is still unknown, and is likely important context through which to consider possible punishment. The Commissioner will need to exact penalties that are consistent and repeatable for other teams, players, and executives, but likely won’t be eager to mete out penalties without significant testimony and evidence. If MLB isn’t looking beyond Houston, the Commissioner is unlikely to find much that contextualizes the Astros’ actions unless the Astros themselves turn over what they’ve found about other teams’ behavior.

With the Astros, we have obvious cheating with prior precedent for penalties, repeated efforts by baseball to prevent this behavior, and the entire organization, at a minimum, cognizant of potential sign-stealing issues. Ultimately, even if the Astros organization tells the truth about what happened, they are going to be hit hard. If individual employees don’t cooperate, or are found to be lying, they are going to be hit harder. The Astros’ reputation as an organization willing to do anything to win is going to hurt them publicly, but looking solely at the actual evidence will probably be plenty to bring about significant penalties. While some forms of stealing signs are largely accepted as part of baseball, there’s too much in the way of bright-line rules, clear precedent, and brazen disregard for the same to think the Astros’ behavior isn’t going to be easily seen as cheating when the Commissioner’s office conducts their analysis. If the investigation reveals continued illegal efforts to steal signs in 2018 and 2019, harsh penalties are warranted. An excuse of “everyone is doing it” isn’t going to hold water when teams were put on notice of the risk of getting caught. When commenting on Chris Correa’s behavior, Manfred said:

“I am intolerant with respect to the violation of our rules.”

When the investigation concludes, we’ll find out more than just the Astros sign-stealing scheme. We’ll find out if that statement is true.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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4 years ago

Good summary. I’m going to say that in addition to a fine and draft choices, Luhnow and whoever directly ran the cheating operation will get a permanent ban and Hinch and others a year. MLBPA will make it hard to penalize players who took advantage.

4 years ago
Reply to  baycommuter

I agree. MLB is going to make this a 3rd rail issue, similar to gambling I think.

4 years ago
Reply to  baycommuter

I think Crane gets 80s Steinbrenner’d, Luhnow is thrown out of the game, Hinch gets a long suspension, Cora either a short one or a sizable fine, and many draft picks are gone. They’ll still be good next year and the year after, but it’s going to really hurt their 2020s.

4 years ago
Reply to  JustinPBG

probably also international money taken away….

4 years ago
Reply to  baycommuter

They have to prove beyond shadow of a doubt folks there was cheating.

Fiers, Dodgers and Yankees all have personal bones to pick with the Astros.

Also a lot of the evidence is circumspect.

And to be real the fines of now weren’t used then so unless you want the MLB to start penalizing teams for having dopers pre-steroid era, you might want to step back.

4 years ago
Reply to  melmac79

On the other hand the Astros probably won’t try to play the “prove it” card too hard because then mlb might seem them “uncooperative “. Astros might get off easier when they admit everything than if the make mlb prove every bit of it,

4 years ago
Reply to  Dominikk85

yeah. And some guys may be very cooperative to hope to stay employed in baseball….

4 years ago
Reply to  melmac79

The evidence – even the publicly available evidence – isn’t equivocal. Tbe Baseball Prospectus analysis of the broadcast audio files matching up with the timestamps on Statcast breaking pitches isn’t circumstantial evidence.

Ukranian to Vietnamese to French is back
4 years ago
Reply to  melmac79

{got my work cut out for me tonight — Serb.}

Ukranian to Vietnamese to French is back
4 years ago

They must prove more than the shadow of doubt that has been uttered.

The guys, Dodgers and Ianki have their bones to pick from in the Astros.

And a lot of evidence is on the alert.

And to be really good, don’t use it right now, unless you want MLB to start punishing the team that angered them before infertility, you might want to retire.


The Taubman service is aimed at a distorted sports writer who wants to find something to attack in the eighth.

I’m a woman and I invite her to it.

They must prove more than the shadow of doubt that has been uttered.

The guys, Dodgers and Ianki have their bones to pick from in the Astros.

And a lot of evidence is on the alert.

And to be really good, don’t use it right now, unless you want MLB to start punishing the team that angered them before infertility, you might want to retire.

o be honest, if MLB is in it, the Astros can sue and claim every winning title at the age of each of its awards.

He won’t do it for that reason.

In fact, they can do what your whistle does, and headlines must be prosecuted for violating applicable laws.

This is what you want here.

Well … Do it and every team wins a trophy in court before the Council, a poststeroid bracelet, does it.

Do I look inconsistent and exaggerated?

This is what you suggest.
There will no longer be a ban on his life.

There was something a great man could do about revenge, but the truth got worse.

Anyway – they haven’t proven anything yet.

Remember: all Fiori, Doders and Iankees have their bones to choose from with the Astros.

Types: until 2017, then posted.

I did not buy his needs until he returned to the circle and a cash prize. (I think who cares about him).

He is also an athlete now, and the Astros did all this last year.

Iankees: 10 years without VS, 3 from Astros. They also accused Red Juice and others of cheating until they were injured.

Doder: Gurriel’s anger in July was not banned at the rest of the World Series for his racist gestures.

Gurriel helped the Astros win 5 games 7.

Write down the facts and questions:

А. How can rubber cans look like metal?

B. Seriously whistling is funny because the horn on stage is getting more and more.

C. They can watch records from legal shows from previous games and be a pitcher.

D. They have a preview of the game with a screen that tracks the challenges.

Е. The rainbow is recorded all the time, so why is it not in dispute now?

F. Hard Pencils: They are wide open, so why the risk of getting caught so easily?

Everyone is bloodless here, but the lawsuits are very problematic … The border on revenge.

DUKE: They get revenge, not basically.

I think what I have with other teams.

Everything filtered, Iankee and the Dodgers were salty – the “bad” Astros were injured and he has created an ALP or more in the last 7 years since in the AL and other ALDSs.

They are unacceptable – the “Clown” group that does this.


This whistle can’t be recorded until we play through the games, and no bands or tapes are seen.

How are metal candies wiped?

The coldest screams have bones chosen by the Astrose for individuals (muscles) or for larger reasons.
People need to see reality: There are many challenges.

Stop feeling guilty until proven guilty. ”


Keep in mind they had a better profile in 2015, so that’s ridiculous.


Registration for 2017:

Houses: 48 to 33;

Absences: 53 to 28

So we feel something fishy in the allegations you make.


It’s not fair.

I know cameras have had their debts for years and years.

Video proof is weird – does the sound of the tire produce METAL sound?

The machine is a meter in the playoffs and then released.

It has bones and I worry about who wants it.

What starts out is a vision that starts when people say the team is better than that year.

To your needs?

Unless we can remove the winning title of every Islamic DOPER team for Prohibited DEP:

That’s not going to happen.

Oh, and this is why this team is doing well?

29 owners forced the Astros to sell to the AL West.

Anything you move them out of the competition center thinking they want to be clowns.

And compare the blocks to Black Sok.

They recorded the series on a different team. They don’t eat time to win. sigh

That is a fact, but even before the NL strikes, they had 80 seasons, and far longer than the supposed scandal.
In case of errors, there is a proven digestive history.

People don’t see the details in their hated Astros.

A. The fuses did not arrive until 2017, and he was later released after the season.

He was very sweet about it – unless he returned to the ring and the award – it was REEKS revenge.

B. Salty fugitives from July were not banned in the series after his racist pursuits. This decision allows him to help win five and seven rounds.

C. Iankees wrath? 5 words:

Ten years of World Series.

“Evidence” also suspects:

1. “Rumble” – Guys, I heard the sound of metal.

The canoe tram is rubber / plastic.

Make no noise.

2. Display – The challenge allows the person to monitor the game during a delay.

And they’re still filming: So why isn’t the charge now even before the testimony?

3. Whistling – the stupidest of allegations. People often whistle at games on both sides.

It was funny when it was used as a request.

4. Call the Newsletters: In case you haven’t noticed: BP is open.

That is, it is a little strange that it will generate any kind of signal that will be displayed to the viewer.


5. It is legal to watch videos from previous games.

You said 29 teams are really stupid or not.

The Astros will only be punished for their whimper.

But am I really exploring? – These are not cut and dried, so unless you want the same treatment with your group of defendants? Come back


Ukranian to Vietnamese to French is back
4 years ago


People are Damin ‘Astros: How would you think your group was convicted before finding evidence?

Please analyze:

Three people give up machine teams, Iankees and DoD: They all have the bones to vote for the national team.

Ward: He is not on the team in 2017, and was released at the end of the season.

He still doesn’t get his ring and money back so he needs to check it out.

Doders: Julie is angry that he won’t be banned from the rest of the series after his racist move.

Keep in mind that Iuli helped her team win Game 5 to 7, more than “Density.”

Iankee: The Astros keep them from two World Series made in the last 10 years and from the third ALP.

They have also repeatedly accused the deceived opponent.


Then we look for “evidence” of “whistling.”

The movie with “The Big Band” has a tire. Why metal vengeance rings?

Whistle – that’s the dumbest of all. All of the above whistles.

Keep in mind that the last shoe request was made after everyone pointed out that the team was better at 17.

Oh, it’s self-deprecating and jealous.

And the screen was weird: people claimed to have watched viewers for a long time, but now they turn around and say the team won’t let him out.

What kind of people are they?

I don’t know, they have photo shots, so they wonder why it wasn’t reported 17?

“Bulolovka” is funny because HA is easy to register at work.

Be realistic:

The Astros will not lose the title.

Out? They have a reason to ask all teams to be infertile DOPPER before the law, and even now they lose.

That’s a lot of titles for a big bag.

They will be punished, and the straits will be calmed by bad sports teams.

The owner of the Look-29 was created from the Astros in West AL from an extremely difficult center.

Now the angry Astros have appeared four times out of seven when AL and two were injured.

Meanwhile … Uh Jenkenni “in turn” passes the usurper to him.

You will dream.

I will live on this event and I will know if MLB will beat you to the truth.

The Guru
4 years ago

cliff notes please.

4 years ago

This is like Jane Eyre, except it’s worth reading. Well done.

free-range turducken
4 years ago
Reply to  TKDC

@TKDC – of course it’s like Jane Eyre. The original writer was FEMALE.

4 years ago
Reply to  melmac79

“The Dodgers and Yankees all have personal bones to pick with the Astros.”

Well the Astros did cheat them out of a potential championship.

4 years ago
Reply to  Fernando

Yeah Fernando, That’s actually the saddest part. What if Kershaw retires without championship? It absolutely changes his legacy. He’s in danger of being the Dan Marino of pitchers.

4 years ago
Reply to  gtagomori

I think the down voter kids themself with regards to Kershaw. Dan Marino in football isn’t viewed by a wide margin of football fans as well as Joe Montana. And that’s entirely due to the # of Super Bowls each guy won…. Even though statistically, Marino was much better than Montana.

4 years ago
Reply to  stever20

” Even though statistically, Marino was much better than Montana.”

For their careers, Montana had a completion percentage that was 4 points higher, 0.1% higher touchdown percentage, 0.4% lower interception percentage, and 0.2 more yards per attempt. Montana had a much higher sack rate, but was also a better runner. I think it is totally reasonable to pick Marino over Montana, but to claim that Marino is statistically much better than Montana is not based on actually looking at any statistics. The one statistic where Marino does much better is 3000 extra passing attempts, which doesn’t really have much at all to do with either player’s actual talent level.

4 years ago
Reply to  kylesch87

but would you agree that Montana is viewed as being well head of Marino?

If so, that’s entirely the championships…..

John Elway
4 years ago
Reply to  stever20

Rings for all fingers > Isotoners for each hand.

Just neighing.

4 years ago
Reply to  gtagomori

Finkle IS Einhorn! Laces out!

4 years ago
Reply to  gtagomori

Pretty sure Kershaw isn’t coked up the way Marino was most of his career.

4 years ago
Reply to  melmac79

Found the butthurt Astros fan.

4 years ago
Reply to  fredsbank

My thoughts exactly.

Cool Lester Smoothmember
4 years ago
Reply to  baycommuter

Burn. Them. To. The. Ground.

That is all.