Rounding Up Everyone Implicated in the Astros Scandal
The report included insight from former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, among other unnamed sources, and paints a dark picture of what may have been going on behind the scenes at Minute Maid Park.
Here's the general overview from that report:
"Four people who were with the Astros in 2017, including pitcher Mike Fiers, said that during that season, the Astros stole signs during home games in real time with the aid of a camera positioned in the outfield.
"Now, an MLB investigation into the Astros' culture in the wake of the team's firing of assistant general manager Brandon Taubman could be expanded to determine who in the organization was aware of the sign-stealing practice — and whether it continued or evolved in subsequent seasons. The Athletic's confirmation of rule-breaking by Houston is limited to 2017."
If proven true, these allegations could have sweeping ramifications on the Astros organization, and a number of prominent figures have already been tied to the investigation.
Ahead we've compiled a quick roundup of the notable names who have been implicated to this point.
Since the initial report of sign-stealing allegations, Kevin Goldstein has emerged as a central figure in the story.
Here are the pertinent details from Jeff Passan of ESPN:
"A high-ranking Houston Astros official asked scouts to spy on opponents' dugouts leading up to the 2017 postseason, hoping to steal signs and suggesting the potential use of cameras to do so, sources familiar with the request told ESPN.
"The reaction among those who received an email from Kevin Goldstein, a special assistant to Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, was mixed, sources told ESPN. Some were intrigued by the idea, sources who received the email said, while others were bothered by the thought of pointing cameras from the stands toward opposing teams' dugouts, a plan that could have earned them scorn within the scouting community if caught."
The email in question was confirmed by recipients, and it serves to paint a broader picture of the team's alleged sign-stealing practices.
Goldstein currently holds the title of special assistant to the general manager.
While he just wrapped up his second season as manager of the Boston Red Sox, Alex Cora was still serving as the Houston Astros bench coach during the 2017 season.
It sounds like he could have played a key role in the development of the team's alleged sign-stealing process.
"Sources said both [Alex] Cora and [Carlos] Beltran played a key role in devising the sign-stealing system the team used that season," Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic wrote.
Does that mean Cora could also face steep penalties, despite the fact he's moved on to a different organization? Chad Finn of Boston.com gave his take in a recent mailbag:
"I can't imagine that Cora gets punished for this beyond perhaps a fine. A suspension seems really unlikely. Part of it is because he's with another organization now and it would be obtuse to punish the Red Sox for something that happened elsewhere. And part of it – the biggest part — is that you know MLB just wants this to go away, quietly."
The Red Sox will certainly hope that's the case, as they have bigger fish to fry this offseason, including payroll slashing and making a decision on Mookie Betts' future.
Recently hired as the new manager of the New York Mets, Carlos Beltran was in his final season as a player when the Houston Astros won the World Series in 2017. He hit .231/.283/.383 with 29 doubles, 14 home runs and 51 RBI in 509 plate appearances while serving as the team's primary designated hitter.
However, his contributions to the team's success might have stretched beyond his own on-field exploits.
As mentioned previously, Beltran has been credited with playing a "key role" in the alleged development of the sign-stealing process, along with current Red Sox manager and then-bench coach Alex Cora.
Beltran admitted to stealing signs in a text message to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, but only in the traditional sense:
"The game of baseball for years, guys have given location and if the catchers get lazy and the pitcher doesn't cover the signs from second base [then] of course players are going to take advantage. I don't call that cheating. I call that using small details to take advantage. I think baseball is doing a great job adding new technology to make sure the game is even for both teams. It's easy to blame someone when they win."
There's certainly a big difference between peeking in from second base and a complex, video-based sign-stealing system. The former is not what Beltran has been accused of here.
As both the general manager and team president of the Astros, Jeff Luhnow is going to be held responsible for what was taking place within his organization, even if he wasn't directly involved.
But what if he did know what was going on?
"If Jeff Luhnow knew about this, he should be banned for life," one rival general manager told Andy Martino of SNY.tv.
A harsh punishment like that would not be completely unfounded under commissioner Rob Manfred.
Jeff Passan of ESPN wrote: "The maximum penalties Manfred has handed out include a $2 million fine and loss of their first two 2017 draft picks after a St. Louis Cardinals employee illicitly accessed the Astros' proprietary database, and a ban on international signings after an investigation into the Atlanta Braves' practices in Latin America."
The Cardinals employee referenced above, Chris Correa, was subsequently banned for life. So too was John Coppolella, who was the Braves general manager during the international signing violations.
It all comes down to how much Luhnow knew.
While Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran are now employed elsewhere and Jeff Luhnow might be able to claim some level of ignorance from his front-office perch high above the action, there will be no escaping the spotlight for manager AJ Hinch.
If the Astros were, in fact, using an elaborate sign-stealing system during games, it would have been happening right under his nose in the dugout and clubhouse.
He would either have to be blind, which we can be fairly certain he's not, or complicit to some degree.
The Astros have piled up 311 wins over the past three seasons with Hinch steering the ship. And while he's had a supremely talented roster at his employ, his potential role in this scandal would bring all of that into question. If these allegations are found to be true, there's really no comparison to draw from as far as what type of punishment Hinch would receive.
The NFL banning New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton for one year due to his role in the team's bounty scandal back in 2012 could serve as a loose precedent, but that's an entirely different league and a distinctly different type of violation.
There's no telling how this will play out. But it has quickly become one of the biggest storylines of the MLB offseason, and the investigation is ongoing.