A year has elapsed since Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic published the first details outlining how the Houston Astros improperly used technology to steal their opposition's signs in games during and after their 2017 World Series title run. Former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers served as the whistleblower, laying out how Houston would inform the hitter of what pitch was coming by hitting a trash can. That allegation was easily confirmed by revisiting video footage and listening for the "bangs."
Major League Baseball conducted its own investigation in the months that followed, with commissioner Rob Manfred then levying penalties in January. General manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were each suspended for the season before being dismissed by owner Jim Crane, and the organization was stripped of four draft picks and was fined the maximum amount allowed under the Major League Constitution ($5 million). Luhnow and Hinch weren't the only ones who got canned: Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran, the managers for the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, also lost their jobs because of their involvement in the scandal.
The Astros subsequently hired Dusty Baker to manage and James Click to run point in the baseball operations department. In an unexpected twist, the pandemic spared the Astros the indignity of being booed by opposing crowds (with the exception of a few weeks' worth of spring training contests). It also spurred the expanded postseason, which allowed Houston to qualify for October despite a losing record. The Astros advanced all the way to the American League Championship Series before being felled by the Tampa Bay Rays in seven games.
In short, a lot has happened in the last 52 weeks. We here at CBS Sports figured it would be appropriate to nod at the anniversary by checking in on seven key actors in the sign-stealing scandal and providing updates on where they are and how their situations have changed in the past year. Nearly everyone involved remained or is back in baseball, and a few of those names have made headlines this week.
Jim Crane, Astros owner
Not much has changed for Crane. He still owns the team, and he still gets to boast about winning the 2017 World Series. He did have to pay a fine, but he saved a healthy amount by virtue of not having to sign a first- or second-round draft pick. Crane has theoretically had to deal with the embarrassment that stems from one's organization being entangled in a scandal that threatens the integrity of the sport, but there's been little public indication he feels shame.
Jeff Luhnow, former Astros general manager
Luhnow's name had resurfaced as part of the industry's rumor mill this summer, with folks connecting him to the Los Angeles Angels opening. It doesn't appear that he's getting that job, and instead he recently opted to sue the Astros and MLB for a supposed contractual breach. It's unclear if he has any hope of winning a case, or at least reaching a lucrative settlement. It's also unclear if that lawsuit will impact his chances of landing another GM gig anytime soon.
A.J. Hinch, former Astros manager
Hinch knew about the sign-stealing operation, but did little more to stop it than busting up a pair of television monitors. He served his suspension and was then hired to manage the Detroit Tigers within days of the final out being recorded. Hinch said at his introductory press conference that another team had shown interest, suggesting multiple clubs were more than willing to overlook his failure of leadership in order to add a World Series-winning skipper.
Alex Cora, former Astros bench coach
Cora was identified as one of the sign-stealing operation's ringleaders in the report published by MLB. That was enough for the Boston Red Sox to give him the heave-ho, despite him having won the 2018 World Series. Of course, the Red Sox recently nullified whatever stand they were taking by re-hiring Cora shortly after his suspension ended. It's worth noting that the Red Sox were also investigated and punished for improper technological behavior that occurred under Cora's watch, though both he and the league deny he had involvement or knowledge of it.
Carlos Beltran, former Astros player
Beltran, who had a reputation as a player for being able to pick up on the opposition's "tell," was also identified as one of the ringleaders behind the sign-stealing operation. As with Cora, that was enough for Beltran's then-employer, the New York Mets (for whom he hadn't yet managed a game), to show him the door. Beltran hasn't been ushered back into the league as quickly as the other managers who were fired, though it stands to reason he'll receive an opportunity at some point down the road given how indifferent teams appeared to be toward both Hinch and Cora.
Jose Altuve, Astros second baseman
Altuve received more scrutiny than any other Astros player because of unfounded speculation that he may have been wearing a buzzer-like device under his jersey. Hence not wanting to remove his shirt after a walk-off home run; hence the odd explanations that his defensiveness was because of his wife, and later because of an unsightly, unfinished chest tattoo; and so on. To be clear, MLB's investigation found no evidence that was true, and independent analysis found that he was one of the Astros' hitters who was least reliant upon the "bang" system. Nevertheless, Altuve had a miserable season at the plate in 2020, which did him no favors and bought him no relief from criticism and conspiracy theories.
Mike Fiers, former Astros pitcher
Fiers is now a free agent, having completed his multi-year contract with the Oakland Athletics. He had a down season relative to his recent norms, and is about to enter his age-36 season. If he never pitches in the majors again, there will be questions as to whether his whistleblowing brought upon an earlier end to his career than he might've enjoyed otherwise. Of course, it's also possible the league just doesn't care that much anymore, as suggested by their other actions, and that Fiers will be able to find a cheap one-year deal to prove he has something left to offer.