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MLB hammers Astros in cheating scandal: Jeff Luhnow, A.J. Hinch suspended then fired; draft picks lost

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Major League Baseball issued harsh penalties against the Houston Astros on Monday after a lengthy investigation into the team’s use of technology to steal signs. The sanctions include one-year suspensions for Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow as well as a $5 million fine and the loss of future draft picks.

Shortly after the sanctions were announced, the Astros fired both Hinch and Luhnow, each of whom will be ineligible to partake in the 2020 season.

Here is the full list of Houston’s penalties:

· Manager A.J. Hinch suspended for one year. Hinch was then fired by the Astros.
· GM Jeff Luhnow suspended for one year. Luhnow was then fired by the Astros
· Former assistant GM Brandon Taubman suspended one year.
· Astros forfeit their first- and second- round draft picks the next two years.
· Astros fined $5 million, the maximum allowed under MLB‘s constitution.

Here are nine things to know about the Astros’ scandal and punishment.

1. Astros’ use of technology crossed line

Stealing signs is not explicitly against MLB’s official rules, but where the Astros crossed the line is their use of technology (a camera/monitor system) to gain information. The Astros used a center-field camera to pick up the opposing catcher’s signs and then relayed the signs to their batters. Players alerted hitters of an incoming off-speed pitch by banging on trashcans in the dugout.

2. $5 million is the maximum penalty

For those wondering, the $5 million fine is not a random figure. Rather, it’s the maximum financial punishment imposable under the current Major League Constitution

3. Mike Fiers was the whistleblower

In a bombshell report published by The Athletic in November, right-hander Mike Fiers, who pitched for the Astros from 2015-17, gave an on-the-record account of how the Astros crossed the line. “That’s not playing the game the right way,” he said at the time. “They were advanced and willing to go above and beyond to win.”

4. Cora, Red Sox penalties to come

The league’s discipline against the Astros is precedent setting. It’s expected that the Boston Red Sox — and specifically manager Alex Cora — will also face severe punishment for their alleged use of cameras to steal signs during their 2018 championship season. In 2017, the Red Sox were fined for using Apple Watches as part of a sign-stealing scheme, and Manfred warned teams caught cheating in a similar way would be severely disciplined going forward. MLB’s investigation into the Red Sox remains ongoing.

Cora was identified in Manfred’s report as a ringleader of Houston’s sign-stealing (and otherwise “player-driven”) operation.

5. Beltran also named in report

In addition to Cora, one other current big-league manager is named in the report: New York Mets skipper Carlos Beltran. Because Beltran was a player at the time, and because MLB isn’t punishing players who were involved, he seems likely to avoid any kind of suspension. 

6. Crane not being blamed

Another individual who will skate free is Astros owner Jim Crane. In the introduction of the report, Manfred stated that “I can say our investigation revealed absolutely no evidence” that Crane “was aware of any of the conduct described in this report.” Crane, according to Manfred, is said to be “extraordinarily troubled and upset by the conduct of members of his organization.” 

Hinch, it should be noted, is said to have destroyed the monitor the Astros used to steal signs on two occasions, but did not put an end to the operation, and did not alert Luhnow or a higher authority.

7. Who might replace Luhnow and Hinch?

The Astros will now have to name a new manager and GM. According to multiple reports, Joe Espada, Houston’s bench coach under Hinch in 2019, will take over the managerial role. Espada was a candidate for multiple managerial openings outside of Houston this winter. If, at least on an interim basis, the organization stays in-house for GM, then the favorite would seem to be Pete Putila, who was promoted to assistant GM back in September. 

8. League conducted exhaustive investigation

According to a report released last December, Astros personnel admitted to MLB that the club used a center-field video camera to rely pitching signs in real time. MLB’s months-long investigation started shortly after The Athletic’s report and it covered the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons. Investigators interviewed 60 witnesses and gathered 76,000 emails related to the Astros sign-stealing scheme.

9. Report suggests Astros have bad culture

One other noteworthy piece from the report is its conclusion on the Astros’ baseball operations culture. “While no one can dispute that Luhnow’s baseball operations department is an industry leader in its analytics, it is very clear to me that the 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.”



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$1.5M relief funding now available to B.C. community sports clubs

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Community-based sports groups at risk of closing due to COVID-19 can now apply for aid from the province’s $1.5-million Local Sport Relief Fund.

The province says the pandemic has “profoundly” affected people in the sports community, with many local sport organizations facing extreme financial pressure and risk of insolvency due to the loss of registration fees, event revenues and sponsorships.

The fund will help those local clubs – such as baseball, soccer, gymnastics and swim teams – pay bills, society dues, salaries and maintenance fees as they prepare for an eventual full return to sport.

“For many athletes and families, local sports organizations provide the important physical, mental and social benefits sports offer, which we need more than ever,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture.

“This funding will help local organizations so they can continue to support children, families and our communities with healthy activities.”

The application process is open until Oct. 16, 2020.

B.C. moved into Phase 3 of ViaSport’s Return to Sport plan last month, which includes modified games and matches, and league play and competitions within sport cohorts.

As of Sept. 15, 67 sport-specific plans had been completed by provincial sport organizations, with 26 being updated for Phase 3 of returning to sport.

In all, more than 500,000 British Columbians are now able to return to sport, according to the province.



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Coquitlam Express set to launch extended exhibition season

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The new coach of the Coquitlam Express, Dan Cioffi, will be able to put the pylons away beginning Oct. 2.

The Express will host the Langley Rivermen at Poirier Sports and Leisure Complex at 7 p.m. It’s the team’s first of 18 exhibition games that are part of the BC Hockey League’s extended training camp schedule leading up to an anticipate resumption of a regular season beginning Dec. 1.

“We believe it’s important to have our players play meaningful games during this extended period before the start of our regular season, in order to stay engaged and game-ready leading into December,” said BCHL executive director Steve Cocker in a press release.

The Express will play all of its games in a regional cohort that includes the Rivermen, Surrey Eagles and the Chilliwack Chiefs. Spectators will not be permitted. Similar cohorts have been established for the rest of the league as well.

On Sept. 11, the BCHL announced plans to forge ahead with its 2020/’21 season even if ongoing public health regulations to control transmission of the COVID-19 viral infection won’t permit fans in arenas. Teams in the Tier II junior league rely on ticket revenue, in addition to corporate sponsorships, to cover their operating expenses.

Instead, the league said it could implement a play-to-play model that would require its players to pay a fee to secure their position. Such fees are common in the lower tiers of junior hockey, like the Pacific Junior Hockey League.

The exhibition opener between the Express and Rivermen will be a rematch of the teams’ opening round series in last spring’s BCHL playoffs. Coquitlam, which finished atop the regular season standings, dispatched Langley in four straight games. The post-season was then cancelled because of the public health crisis.

Click here to see the whole exhibition schedule for the Express.

© Copyright Tri-City News



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Tarundeep Rai looks to end on a high | More sports News

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KOLKATA: Tarundeep Rai remains the rare Indian sportsperson whose preparation for the Tokyo Olympics has not been affected much due to the pandemic. The recurve archer decided not to return home and stayed back at the Army Sports Institute in Pune where the national camp resumed this month.
“I have a kid (son) back home, so returning was a bit tricky when the country went into the first lockdown. I didn’t want to carry the virus for my family,” the archer was quoted as saying during the lockdown period.
While everyone left the camp in March-end, the Olympian spent time in dry practice along with focusing on fitness aspects.
The Arjuna award winner planned to retire after the 2020 Olympics, but now with the Tokyo Games being pushed back to 2021, he decided to extend his stint for a year more.
“I want to give my best shot at the final goal of my career which is winning an Olympic medal for the country,” a determined Tarundeep told fellow Indian archer Atanu Das during an online interaction.
“It’s tough time for me and my family. I must have spent only around six months with my son, who is eight years old, due to my training schedule,” Tarundeep pointed out. “But I have told my family that I will return home with the (Olympic) medal only,” the army man said.
“I lost almost 20 kgs in the last two years,” he said. “I am not growing any younger, but now am feeling much like the 2003 Tarundeep when I first got into the Indian side,” he stated.
The 36-year-old, who has already secured a quota for India at the 2021 Olympics along with Atanu and Pravin Jadhav, still could not forget India’s elimination against Japan in the first of the elimination round in 2012 London Games.
“Japan rallied to take the match to tie-break after we were leading 4-2. In the last set, I hit one shot at 8. Given a chance, I would have liked to convert that into a 10,” Tarundeep, who took part in 2004 Games too, stated.
With no international or domestic competitions scheduled in the near future, the Sikkim archer agreed that it’s difficult to keep the focus. “It’s always better to have an objective in front. But I understand under these unusual conditions, we need to just keep practising hard,” he said.

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