The Houston Astros just got handed a severe punishment for their sign-stealing scandal from 2017-2019. And since Houston is a division rival of our Mariners, it seems fair to ask: did MLB go far enough?
A few days ago, we discussed how the (at the time) impending punishment didn’t do much for the Mariners in the 2020 and 2021 season but could help them reach their goals as early as 2022. And after today’s penalties were announced, I think our estimation was fair.
But we have already discussed whether or not the Astros punishment helps Seattle, so let’s instead focus on whether the punishment fit’s the crime. But in case you missed it, here are the penalties handed down by Major League Baseball today:
- Manager A.J. Hinch is suspended for the 2020 season.
- GM Jeff Luhnow is suspended until the end of the 2020 season.
- Astros will lose their first and second-round picks in 2020 and 2021 MLB Draft.
- Fined $5 million ( the highest allowed by the “MLB constitution” which I didn’t know was a thing)
Astros’ owner Jim Crane has already fired Hinch and Luhnow, citing the necessity to turn a page for the franchise. But those aren’t official punishments from MLB, so let’s stick with the 4 points above.
Losing your manager can be a blow to the clubhouse, as Hinch is considered one of the better field managers in the game. Obviously, his dismissal may try and remove some of the distractions, but it is still a small problem. Even great managers are only going to add 1-2 wins to a roster, so the psychological strain is the bigger issue.
The suspension of Luhnow is a bit hollow. It was announced as a 1-year suspension but really wasn’t. The suspension starts today and ends after the 2020 World Series is concluded. So, had he not been fired, Luhnow would have missed the back half of one off-season and a trade deadline. It seems light to me.
The $5 million fine means nothing to the billionaire owner and the franchise worth $1.8 billion. But it was the maximum fine amount allowed, so I guess that means something.
Finally, the draft pick loss. Houston will lose their Top 2 picks in each of the next 2 seasons, as well as the slot bonus money attributed to these spots. Now, the Astros are going to be good in 2020 and probably again in 2021, so they’ll lose low first and second-round picks as a result.
This is the most problematic of the punishments handed down. Houston’s system is already thinning and now they’ve lost the quickest and easiest way to add prospects. While Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Yordan Alvarez are locked in long-term, Houston has already lost Gerritt Cole and will likely lose George Springer next winter.
In addition, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke aren’t getting younger and father time is going to win, possibly in the next 2 years. Not having the draft picks to add talent to their farm or supplement the farm to add major talent at the deadline will be a difficulty the next GM will have to navigate.
Overall, I find these punishments to be on the light side of what I would consider acceptable. Personally, I would have also imposed similar international sanctions as the Braves got in their scandal in addition to those levied today.
Some will go to an extreme and call this punishment light or too harsh, which would seem to indicate MLB split the middle of the two groups pretty well.
Overall, this isn’t a death sentence to the Astros but does present some pretty clear roadblocks they’ll need to navigate the next 4 years. The Mariners won’t see the benefit of this in 2020, but they could start to see it as early as 2021, which is exactly when the team claims they want to start competing.