By Braden Simmons | Reporter
The sky is falling. People are actually discussing baseball in the middle of January while the NFL playoffs are heating up, and the NBA is in full swing. At the center of it all: the Houston Astros.
As Major League Baseball’s commissioner brings down a multitude of punishments for the Houston Astros, their owner went one step further and fired his top front-office employees. His decision to fire them after the team was suspended for illegally stealing signs was too late to save the Astros’ reputation.
Jim Crane, owner of the Houston Astros, announced that the team fired managers Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch after being dealt a one-year suspension by the MLB.
The suspension followed an extensive report from the MLB commissioner of baseball Rob Manfred. In his findings, Manfred announced that the Astros players and staff created a system to illegally steal signs with technology.
Players were not punished for their roles in sign stealing but the report acknowledged their cooperation in the process. The decision by the league has been criticized as fans have voiced their outrage that the Astros were barely even punished.
Crane cannot let everyone go that has a connection to sign stealing. The stain on that era will stay as long as the core players for Houston are still in the lineup.
Crane decided to fire the employees because they were aware of the team stealing signs and didn’t do enough to stop it. However, a question has been raised from the press conference. Why did the owner wait until the suspension to fire them?
Hinch and Luhnow should have been fired before the investigation if Crane was to fully upheave his staff as a PR move.
As the owner of the franchise, Crane had to have been aware of the allegations of sign stealing way before any investigation began. I find it hard to believe that the boss of an entire organization was unaware of the rumors that his team was cheating. The general manager of an organization reports directly to the owner. If Luhnow knew of the sign stealing, Crane must have partly run the operation as well or knew it was going on.
Based on the notion that Crane knew, the firing of Luhnow and Hinch seems to be due to them being caught rather than the Astros trying to save their brand. Manfred, in his report, said Crane was deeply upset after the punishment was handed down, and I’m sure this is accurate. However, these frustrations are because his team was caught, and the championship consequently forever tainted.
Looking to other sports, we see that the New Orleans Saints kept their head coach Sean Payton after his one-year suspension from football due to his cover-up of the team’s illegal bounty system from 2009 to 2011.
If you watched the Saints’ playoff game this season when you saw Sean Payton coaching did you think of his role in bounty gate? No. The Saints scandal of years past is gone from the minds of NFL fans, but their reputation is slightly damaged to those who remember. Saints were cooperative in their investigation as the Astros were, and since their punishment, they have not caused trouble for the National Football League.
Firing or keeping a manager will not immediately change the world’s viewpoint of a team. The team’s actions decide how you will be perceived. The Houston Astros will not be able to establish change until they prove it on and off the field for years to come.
If Crane could redo the 2017 season, and look back and trade a World Series for the years following of a terrible reputation, would he take the championship? He will publicly say no, obviously, but the question is valid.
Even in Luhnow and Hinch’s absence, the reputation of the team is shattered and will be for a long time. In his press conference, Crane said he wants a clean slate, but how is that possible if the players involved are still on the roster? Sorry Jim Crane, but this scandal will follow the Astros for years to come.
With the roster mostly intact, the future of the Astros is bright on the field. Off the field, the shadow of the past will loom over the players as they go onto visiting fields and face the scrutiny of the rest of the nation.
Astros fans will debate whether it was worth it to bring the city its first MLB championship. Outsiders will debate whether they were let off with a slap on the wrist. At the end of the day, the Astros’ reputation will be tarnished for years to come.