The Houston Astros fired manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow after Major League Baseball suspended each for one year following its investigation into illegal sign-stealing by the team, owner Jim Crane announced during a press conference Monday.
Crane will serve as the interim head of baseball operations, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com.
"Neither one of them started this, but neither one of them did anything about it," Crane said of his decision to fire the pair, according to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle.
The firings come shortly after commissioner Rob Manfred announced the disciplinary action against the Astros, which also included stripping the team of its first- and second-round draft picks in both the 2020 and '21 amateur drafts and a fine of $5 million.
Former Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman, who was fired in October for yelling offensive remarks at a group of female reporters, was also suspended for one year.
The suspensions begin Jan. 13 and end one day after the completion of the 2020 World Series, during which Hinch, Luhnow, and Taubman won't be allowed inside any MLB or minor-league facilities. If they violate the terms of their suspensions, they'll be placed on MLB's permanently ineligible list.
No Astros players were disciplined by the league. Carlos Beltran, who played his final season with the Astros in 2017 and is now managing the New York Mets, escaped punishment despite being the only player directly named in the report.
Additionally, Manfred found "absolutely no evidence" that Crane was aware of what the team was doing.
"It is very clear to me that the (Astros) culture of the baseball operations department, manifesting itself in the way its employees are treated, its relations with other clubs, and its relations with the media and external stakeholders, has been very problematic," Manfred wrote in his report.
Manfred's investigation found that Hinch didn't create the sign-stealing scheme, which involved a video monitor near the dugout and the banging of a trash can to alert hitters of what pitches were coming.
Former Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who now manages the Boston Red Sox, is credited as the "mastermind" of the scheme, according to Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic. Cora is reportedly expected to be disciplined separately, and the Red Sox remain under investigation.
Hinch told Manfred that he disapproved of the practice and physically damaged the video monitor twice. However, he admitted to the commissioner that he didn't stop the sign-stealing and didn't explicitly notify his players or Cora of his feelings.
"As the person with responsibility for managing his players and coaches, there is simply no justification for Hinch's failure to act," Manfred wrote. "If Hinch was unsure about how to handle the situation, it was his responsibility to bring the issue to the attention of Luhnow.
"Hinch expressed much contrition both to me and my investigators for allowing the conduct to continue. Although I appreciate Hinch's resourcefulness, I must hold him accountable for the conduct of his team, particularly since he had full knowledge of the conduct and chose to allow it to continue throughout the 2017 postseason."
The Astros won the World Series in 2017 and another pennant in 2019. In 2018, they were eliminated by Cora's Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.
Whispers of the Astros' sign-stealing began in 2017 and grew louder over the last few years. The New York Yankees said they heard whistling near the Astros' dugout during this past season's ALCS and connected the sounds to sign-stealing. Hinch called those allegations "a joke."
Former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers spoke publicly about the issue during an interview in November, which effectively led to the investigation and Monday's discipline.
Manfred interviewed 68 witnesses, including 23 current and former Astros players, during his investigation, according to Drellich.