Astros owner Jim Crane did the right thing. The punishment handed down by MLB in response to Houston's sign-stealing scandal was surprisingly light, but about an hour after the news broke, Crane rectified it.
Manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow — two of the most successful men in baseball over the last five years — were fired. Both had been given one-year suspensions by MLB.
One year? With what enforcement? This would have been really weird. Was MLB going to periodically check the text messages of Hinch, Luhnow and their staffs to ensure Hinch and Luhnow weren't still running things?
Crane circumvented any awkwardness now and in the future by firing both men. He did what he had to do. You need to be able to trust your top decision-makers and the faces of your organization. If you win a championship you want it to mean something, not be marred like the Astros' title is now. There was deceit involved in all of this, from a team that might not have even needed to be deceitful to win it all.
What an incredible fall from grace. Less than three years ago, the Astros were the toast of baseball, the model franchise. But the most successful period in their history will forever have a black mark.
The Astros were also docked their first- and second-round picks in both 2020 and 2021. And Brandon Taubman, a top candidate for Tool of the Year in 2019, was placed on MLB's ineligible list.
Keep in mind, though, that those first-round picks figure to be low because of how good the Astros are. From 2000 through 2010, less than 35 percent of players drafted 26th through 30th even made the majors. That's probably where the Astros will be. The combination of all four picks? That could be meaningful toward the middle of the decade.
Hinch played four games as a Phillie in 2004, his final season in the majors. He spent five seasons as Astros manager and won 101, 103 and 107 games in his last three years. He is well-respected around the game and will find another managerial job at some point. There was a stark contrast in the statements released by both men, with Hinch wearing it and Luhnow passing the blame to others, including "lower-level employees."
The Phillies are in Houston to face the Astros July 7-9.