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The Vexation Of Houston Sports Fans
added 01/14/2020 by Bob Hulsey
One Houston team wants to be the Patriots. Another Houston team already is.

Read the full column

January 17 - This Date in Astros History
January 17 - This Date in Astros History
January 17

1973 - The Astros sign catcher Luis Pujols as a free agent. He would be a reserve for the Astros for seven seasons, hitting above .200 only twice.
1964 - Jeff Tabaka is born in Barberton, OH. The southpaw reliever compiles a 1-2 record with one save over the 1995 and 1996 seasons as an Astro.
1961 - The Houston Sports Association buys the minor league Houston Buffs, a team affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals for decades. The HSA runs the team for the rest of the season while building a transition to National League play the following year.
1915 - Chalmer Luman Harris is born in New Castle, AL. He would become the first manager of an indoor baseball team when the Colt .45s move into the Astrodome and become the Houston Astros in 1965.

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Baseball Simulations

Date      Opp      Result
2/22     #WSH       ----
2/23     #WSH*      ----
2/24     @DET*      ----
2/25      MIA*      ----
2/26      STL*      ----
2/26     @NYM*      ----
2/27     #WSH       ----
2/28     @MIA*      ----
2/29      NYM*      ----
3/01      STL*      ----
3/02      off        --
3/03     @STL*      ----
3/04      MIA*      ----
3/05     @BOS*      ----
3/06      NYM       ----
3/07     @STL*      ----
3/08     @NYM*      ----
3/09      DET*      ----
3/10      NYM*      ----
3/10     @ATL*      ----
3/11     #WSH*      ----
3/12      off        --
3/13     @STL*      ----
3/14      BOS*      ----
3/15      MIA*      ----
3/16      STL       ----
3/16     @NYM       ----
3/17     @MIA*      ----
3/18     #WSH       ----
3/19     #WSH*      ----
3/20      ATL       ----
3/21     @NYM*      ----
3/22     @MIA*      ----
3/23     $CLE       ----
3/24     $CLE       ----
3/25      off        --

* - day game.
# - at W. Palm Beach
$ - at Minute Maid Pk

Spring record:     - 

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Houston Astros recap - 01/13/20 - Hinch, Luhnow Suspended Then Fired
Hinch, Luhnow Suspended Then Fired
Espada Reportedly Named Next Manager

Hinch, Luhnow in happier times
(c) Fox Sports
Major League Baseball handed down their decision on the sign-stealing scandal that rocked the sport on November 12th of last year. The Astros were found guilty of employing a real-time electronic surveillance system of catcher signs and relaying them to players on the field so the batter could anticipate what pitch to expect. Sign stealing is a time-honored baseball tradition but only if done by human observation, not through electronic spying.

The quick recap is that General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Field Manager A.J. Hinch were suspended without pay for the 2020 season, the club will forfeit a first-round and second-round draft choice in the 2020 and 2021 June amateur drafts and the club was fined $5 million dollars. An hour after the announcement, Astros owner Jim Crane fired both Luhnow and Hinch.

The full nine-page report is available on .pdf form.

A directive was sent by Commissioner Rob Manfred in mid-September of 2017 warning teams there would be harsh punishment for any team using electronic surveillance after the Boston Red Sox were caught using Apple watches to relay signals. General managers and managers were instructed that they would specifically be held accountable for any violations and to explicitly caution the players and clubhouse against any such violations. The report claimed Hinch and Luhnow did not do so.

2017 Houston Bench Coach Alex Cora and player Carlos Beltran, both no longer with the team after that season, convinced Minute Maid Park technicians to wire a system to monitor the centerfield camera in real time that was originally kept in the replay room for video replay challenges. Team personnel found ways to relay this information to a runner on second base to signal the batter what was coming. Eventually, this system was streamlined to have personnel banging on a trash can near the dugout to notify the hitter.

By 2018, fewer players were interested in participating because they felt it was not effective (the Astros were a better team on the road than at home both in 2017 and 2018) and, while MLB approved of moving the replay room closer to the dugout for 2018, the league eventually placed their own representative in the replay room to monitor what took place, essentially killing the plot.

Cora became manager of the Red Sox in 2018 and his team won the World Series after beating the Astros in the LCS. After yet another espionage charge was levied against Boston, the Commissioner launched a second investigation and is withholding punishment of Cora until that report is complete. Beltran was hired to be manager of the New York Mets for 2020.

The report concluded there was no evidence of misconduct during the 2019 season. By claiming they could not substantiate the actual effect this spying had on individual games, it would seem they then have no justification to strip the Astros of any titles won in 2017 or 2018.

Hinch, on two occasions, took a bat to the offending monitoring system but did not explicitly state his disapproval of it to the satisfaction of the Commissioner's Office. Luhnow claimed he was unaware of the entire operation but emails indicated that might not have been true. Commissioner Manfred took the occasion to take numerous swipes at Luhnow's baseball operations culture. This included the incident involving Assistant GM Brandon Taubman and a female reporter. Taubman was fired last October and must also serve a year's suspension.

Manfred stressed that the scandal threatened the integrity of the game. Not to deflect the blame, but I must question why MLB thought a monitor with the real-time replay was needed instead of one with an eight-second delay as exists in the dugout already? Why did they not hire a rep to monitor the replay room earlier if they knew the temptation existed?

Similar scandals involving the National Football League were handled much differently. The New England Patriots were punished with fines and the forfeiting of draft picks, once for filming the practices of opponents and once for deflating footballs to benefit their quarterback. The head coach was never suspended. The New Orleans Saints had their head coach suspended for one year for overseeing the placing of bounties to encourage injuring opponents. That coach served his suspension, returned the next year and is still coaching them today.

Crane said he holds his organization to a higher standard in justifying the firing of Hinch and Luhnow. If so, to be consistent, he should fire other team personnel who took part in arranging or participating in the scandal. To not do so looks like face-saving for PR purposes instead of an actual desire to sweep the house clean.

Current Bench Coach Joe Espada is reportedly named for either an interim or permanent managerial position. Espada was sought by other teams during the off-season. I think it would be a wise move to also hire a veteran manager as a bench coach to replace Espada and give him a baseball lifer to help him run the game like Hal Lanier had Yogi Berra or Larry Dierker had Bill Virdon.

The firings and loss of draft picks will certainly be a setback for the organization but the on-field product is still very talented and would be considered the favorite to win the AL West and return to the playoffs this October. However, fans and players will likely get razzed as "cheaters" for several years to come and that is unfortunate and mostly unfair.

-Bob Hulsey

Houston Baseball: The Early Years 1861-1961
(click to order)


RSS Feed | News Archives
Reddick: Astros need to 'focus on winning' - Astros.com
Astros' situation 'stinks,' says Josh Reddick - Houston Chronicle
MLB shoots down Astros 'buzzer' conspiracy theories - ClutchPoints
Hudgens appears safe as fallout from Astros scandal widens - Sportsnet.ca
Showalter would be a solid choice to help the Astros dig out of this sign-stealing mess - Baltimore Sun
Report: Altuve, Bregman wore ‘devices that buzzed’ - NJ.com
Beltran apologizes for role in Astros cheating scandal - New York Post
Fiers getting backlash after blowing whistle on Astros - Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Mets legend rips Astros’ cheating - NJ.com
Beltran steps down as Mets manager - Fox Business
Astros agree with Springer on $21 million deal, avoiding arbitration - USA Today
Springer, Astros agree on $21 million salary for 2020 - NBC Sports
Mendoza hammers Fiers for revealing Astros’ cheating - New York Daily News
Astros interview Showalter for managerial vacancy - USA Today
Los Angeles councilman wants MLB to name Dodgers 2017, 2018 World Series champs - Sports Illustrated
MLB rumors: Nevin candidate to manage Astros - NJ.com
Springer, Astros avoid arbitration with deal - Astros.com
Astros, Springer avoid arbitration with $21M deal - Houston Chronicle
Beltran steps down as Mets manager - Houston Chronicle
Baker says Astros haven't contacted him - Houston Chronicle
Learn more about candidates to become Astros' next manager - Houston Chronicle
MLB says it found no evidence of Astros wearing devices during games - Houston Chronicle
Latest on Astros’ managerial opening - MLB Trade Rumors
Report: Astros to interview Gibbons - TSN.ca
Astros reportedly considering Dusty Baker, other big names as next manager - Yahoo Sports
Garner weighs in on Astros, Hinch future - KPRC-TV
In Astros cheating scandal, the bad guys won - CNN
ValleyCats distance themselves from Astros' scandal - Albany Times Union
Red Sox claim Alex Cora firing was only for his Astros crimes - New York Daily News
Astros' magical title run is now soiled - Houston Chronicle
Cheating comes at a price for the Astros - Washington Post
Are the Astros being punished more harshly because they’re not the Yankees? - Houston Public Media
Spring Training first workouts, game times - Astros.com
Potential targets in Astros' managerial search - Astros.com
Mets stay silent on Beltran's future - Houston Chronicle
Legacies of Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish irreparably tarnished by Astros’ cheating - Los Angeles Times
Astros mess is going to benefit someone, but probably not the Rangers - Dallas Observer
As cora and Red Sox part ways, impact of Astros’ sign-stealing scheme spreads - Washington Post
Astros make filling GM, manager roles a priority - Astros.com
Red Sox fire Cora in wake of cheating scandal - Houston Chronicle
The Vexation Of Houston Sports Fans - Astros Daily
Bochy to remain retired despite Astros job opening - NBC Sports
Astros look ahead after firing of Hinch and Luhnow - Associated Press
MLB urged to strip Astros of 2017 title over cheating scandal - AFP
Cora helped the Astros cheat. Will he face similar penalties? - New York Times
Garner on Fiers: He's a rat - SportsRadio 610
The Astros and other cheaters have questions to ask and answer for themselves - Salt Lake Tribune
The Houston Astros and the fickle nature of a reputation - Forbes
Cheating Astros are worse than Black Sox, steroid abusers (opinion) - Staten Island Advance
Rose chides Astros over sign-stealing scandal - Yahoo Sports
Bauer takes aim at Houston Astros' cheating scandal - WKYC-TV
The meaning behind MLB's unprecedented Astros punishment - Sports Illustrated
Astros fire two, but that won’t clean out baseball’s den of thieves - New York Times
Yankees great calls out Hinch for ‘weak’ Astros scandal excuse - NJ.com
Baseball blew it by not removing cheating Astros as 2017 World Champions, but what else is new? - SportsMoney
Astros are still talented, but they are leaderless and flawed - USA Today
The ‘panic’ moment Astros’ cheating players thought they were busted - New York Post
Dodger fan says he and his friends want to file class-action lawsuit against Astros - KTLA-TV
Could Luhnow, Hinch sue MLB or Astros? - Sports Illustrated
Astros scandal is more reason to be grateful Nats won title - MASN
After Astros' punishment, one big task remains for MLB in sign-stealing scandal - Sporting News
Why anger is boiling behind the scenes about Astros' sign-stealing punishments - ESPN
Manfred hammers the Astros - FanGraphs
Despite key role, Beltrán avoids discipline in Astros sign-stealing scandal - USA Today
Cheating Astros got off easy with tainted World Series title intact - Minneapolis Star-Tribune
4 questions about the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, answered - New York Times
How the Astros went from champions to a shamed shambles - The Guardian
Luhnow takes a shot at Cora in statement - Boston Globe
The culture Luhnow created for the Astros - SportsMoney
Astros get the punishment, Dodgers pay the price - NBC DFW
Five takeaways from MLB's momentous Astros sign-stealing investigation - Yahoo Sports
Former Astros execs sold out baseball, should never be near game again - USA Today
MLB’s Astros sanctions will have leaguewide effect on the ethics of baseball operations - Forbes
Five candidates to replace Hinch as Astros manager - MSN Sports
Why the Astros’ world series championship won’t be vacated as part of sign-stealing scandal - SportsMoney
The ripple effects of the Astros sign-stealing investigation - The Ringer
Can Astros repair image after cheating scandal? - KPRC-TV
Diehard Astros fan reacts to darkest day in team history - KHOU-TV
How Astros’ sign-stealing penalties will affect A’s - San Francisco Chronicle
Luhnow: 'I am not a cheater' - MSN
MLB report takes to task Astros' 'insular culture' - Houston Chronicle
Astros fire Luhnow, Hinch - MLB Trade Rumors
In the wake of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, Manfred stepped up and defended baseball’s integrity - New York Daily News
Dodgers: The Astros stole more than just signs - Dodgers Nation
Darvish sends perfect tweet after Astros get penalties for cheating - Larry Brown Sports
Crane’s reaction to MLB ruling on Astros cheating may impact $7 billion in team values - SportsMoney
If the Astros cheated against the Rays, the results say it didn’t matter much - Tampa Bay Times
Job well done by MLB for penalties assessed to Astros,Hinch - Arizona Sports
Examining impact of Houston’s lost draft picks - Astros.com
Astros owner Crane on Luhnow, Hinch firings - Astros.com
What's next? Astros have key roles to fill - Astros.com
Luhnow: ‘I am not a cheater’ - Houston Chronicle
Hinch apologizes to Astros fans, ownership - Houston Chronicle
Memes roast Astros' firings after alleged cheating scandal - Houston Chronicle
Staten Island Yankees will give away mini trash cans against Astros affiliate - NorthJersey.com
Hinch, Luhnow Suspended Then Fired
- Astros Daily
As Astros empire collapses, players, executives must ponder one question: Was it worth it? - USA Today
They’re out: Astros fire manager A.J. Hinch, GM Jeff Luhnow - Houston Chronicle
Manfred, MLB dropped deserved hammer on Astros for sign-stealing spree - San Diego Union-Tribune
Here’s everything in MLB’s case against the Astros - MSN Sports
Astros scandal: 6 questions about the future of the team - KPRC-TV
Astros' shocking fall from grace continues with firings of Hinch and Luhnow - NBC Sports
Players react as MLB punishes Astros for sign stealing - ESPN
Does sign-stealing scandal taint Astros' World Series win? Owner says, 'Absolutely not' - Yahoo Sports
Astros to name Joe Espada interim manager - NBC Sports
Bauer and other MLB players react to Astros' punishment in sign-stealing scandal - Yahoo Sports
Hinch could lose millions in salary over cheating scandal - Fox Business
Taubman suspended for explicit tirade toward reporters - USA Today
After Astros' sign-stealing suspensions, Red Sox are next - USA Today
How did the Astros sign-stealing scheme work? - KHOU-TV
Here's what the Astros' punishment means for Beltrán and the Mets - NorthJersey.com
Luhnow, Hinch fired for sign stealing - ESPN
MLB hits Astros with huge penalties, Houston fires Hinch, Luhnow: Answering all the questions - ESPN
Cora developed the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme, Hinch suspended 1 year and fired - Boston Herald
Read the MLB’s report on its investigation into Astros’ sign-stealing - Boston Globe
Crane fires Hinch, Luhnow after MLB suspensions in cheating scandal - USA Today
Crane fires Luhnow and Hinch - KRIS-TV
Hinch and Luhnow fired over Astros cheating scandal - New York Times
Hinch, GM banned for season for sign-stealing - Associated Press
Hinch, Luhnow fired after MLB comes down hard on Astros - TSN.ca
MLB hammers Astros for sign-stealing scandal: 4 draft picks forfeited; $5M fine; suspended manager, GM fired - ClickOnDetroit.com
Luhnow, Hinch suspended for '20, then are let go - Astros.com
Astros dismiss Hinch, Luhnow following findings - Astros.com
MLB deals hefty punishment in Astros cheating scandal - Houston Chronicle
What Astros arbitration means for the future of George Springer - SportsMap
George Springer and Astros' failed contract negotiations opens door for Red Sox next offseason - 12up
Springer, Astros among those headed to arbitration, sources say - ESPN
Report: Astros, Springer $5M apart in arbitration case - theScore
Austin Pruitt homecoming offers a shot as Astros’ rotation anchor - Runner Sports
Astros Spring Training information - MLB.com
Astros expected to receive severe punishment for sign-stealing scandal - Last Word on Baseball
Report: Severe punishment awaits Astros - TSN.ca
The Woodlands College Park alum Austin Pruitt traded to Astros - Woodlands Online
Luhnow on Astros’ remaining offseason - MLB Trade Rumors
Rays trade pitcher Austin Pruitt to Astros - Tampa Bay Times
Astros designate Dean Deetz - MLB Trade Rumors
Astros trade for Houston-native Austin Pruitt - KHOU-TV
Astros land pitcher Pruitt in trade with Rays - Astros.com
Springer, Astros have 2020’s widest arbitration gap - Astros.com
Astros acquire veteran pitcher with Houston ties in trade - Houston Chronicle
Astros avoid arbitration with Devenski - Houston Chronicle
Peacock, Astros agree to contract and avoid arbitration - Houston Chronicle
Former Colt .45s catcher Hal Smith passes away at age 89 - Houston Chronicle
Correa, Peacock, Devenski Agree To Terms
- Astros Daily
After World Series run with Astros, Chirinos returning to Rangers pending physical - CBS DFW
Correa details 'terrible' experience of Puerto Rico earthquake - Bleacher Report
Astros send four pitchers to 2020 MLB rookie program - Runner Sports

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- Bob Hulsey