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MLB levies suspensions, fines, and strips draft picks from Astros in cheating scandal fallout

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One of the heaviest punishments in MLB history, yet

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve somehow missed it, the Astros punishment for technologically enhanced sign-stealing is in, and it’s one of the steepest punishments an organization has received for in-game misconduct in many years.

Per Jayson Stark, only Pete Rose and Leo Durocher have received suspensions of this length or longer as managers. The punishments were followed soon afterwards by a press conference from the Astros, wherein Houston’s owner and chairman Jim Crane fired both Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch. Houston will utilize bench coach Joe Espada as their interim manager. Whether he will be retained long-term is a different question, as he’s obviously been with the organization the past two years - though not in 2017 - and is not significantly removed from the scandal. Additionally, some lower-level Astros employees could be in line for further discipline at the organization’s discretion, per Manfred’s report. New Mets manager Carlos Beltrán was involved in the machinations, he, like the rest of the then-players, will not be punished. The same can’t be said for Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who is in line for at least a year-long suspension as well as the bench coach most involved in the implementation of the cheating.

The responses to the punishment have been mixed, to say the least. The initial response from many was awe at the scale of the punishment - there have been few in-game infractions that match this in scale, at an organizational level. There’s a significant likelihood that Luhnow, Hinch, and also-suspended former Assistant General Manager Brian Taubman (whose punishment came for his post-game conduct in the playoffs that led to his firing) never work in professional baseball again. Add on the fine and the draft pick withdrawals, and some were floored.

The report took aim at the Astros as an organization writ large, as well.

There was a fair bit of critique, however, that the punishment actually came up a bit light. The fine, obviously, is a pittance to an ownership led by Crane, with flush coffers from several years of World Series runs. Still, there’s never a good time to lose $5 million, and the losses of the draft picks are potentially the most impactful point. Not only does Houston not get to pick near the top of the draft the next two seasons, they’ll lose out on the bonus pool granted to help them sign higher-end talent throughout the draft. Still, just missing four picks, especially with a World Series contender roster in the present - not to mention the compensatory picks received for any players like Gerrit Cole, George Springer, and Zack Greinke, who have or will become free agents in the next year or two, and there’s plenty of reason to think Houston won’t suffer too badly.

Just as importantly, this punishment may not be enough to dissuade similar behavior in future, which should be grave cause for concern.

I am inclined to agree that the punishment was too light, and feel as though stripping several more draft picks from the next two years, or perhaps even the first 10 picks of both drafts, would be a sharp enough thorn to incentivize front offices to fly straighter. As it is, however, the book is largely shut on this chapter in Astros history...

... or is it?