The ripples of one of Major League Baseball's biggest cheating scandals continue to be felt through the league, with a third team falling victim to the 2017 Houston Astros sign-stealing system.
The New York Mets today announced they were parting ways with manager Carlos Beltran, becoming the third team to lose its manager as a result of the scandal.
Beltran, who played in the outfield for the Astros during the season in question, was only hired as the Mets' manager in November last year when Mickey Callaway was fired at the end of the 2019 season. However, the 42-year-old was implicated in the Astros cheating scandal and the New York franchise decided it was best to rid themselves of any distractions in the fallout now or further down the track.
• Baseball rocked by cheating scandal as Astros GM, manager fired
• Baseball: Toddler's tragic diagnosis from stray foul ball during Chicago Cubs game
• Baseball: Kiwi first for American major league baseball
• Baseball: Three Instagram models banned by MLB after 'exposing' themselves during World Series
His dismissal follows that of Houston team manager AJ Hinch and Boston Red Sox team manager Alex Cora, who was the Astros' bench coach at the time, while Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow was also fired by the club.
The issue was brought to light in November last year, when former Astros starting pitcher Mike Fiers told the Athletic the Astros had engaged in sign-stealing methods during the 2017 season, during which they won the World Series. After the Red Sox were caught doing similar in mid-2017, MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre sent a memorandum to all 30 teams in the league that the next time a team was found to be stealing signs, people would be held accountable.
After Fiers' comments, Commissioner Rob Manfred launched an investigation into the team, covering a period from 2016 through to the end of the 2019 season. A number of players and staff who were with the Astros during that time were interviewed.
The investigation found the club used the live feed from the centre field camera to decode signs flashed by the opposition catcher, working out which of the signs flashed was the indicator for which pitch would be thrown, when they had a runner on second base. The information would then be relayed down to the dugout and then to the player.
Players including Beltran, who was the only one named in the report, then began to discuss improving the scheme and communicating signs to hitters at the plate as well, utilising a monitor installed outside the Astros' dugout. Manfred's report stated one or more players watched the live feed of the center field camera on the monitor, and after decoding the sign, a player would bang a nearby trash can with a bat to communicate the upcoming pitch type to the batter.
The investigation uncovered no evidence that Astros players utilised the banging scheme in 2018. However, the Astros' replay review room staff continued, at least for part of the 2018 season, to decode signs using the live center field camera feed, and to transmit the signs to the dugout.
As a result of the investigation, the Astros were stripped of their first and second round draft picks in this year's first-year player draft, with the picks being forfeited and all others moving up. They were also fined $5m, which is the highest allowable fine under the Major League Constitution. The club will not be stripped of it's 2017 World Series title.
Manfred also handed unpaid suspensions to Hinch and Luhnow for the 2020 MLB season, stating the two must not be present in any Major League, Minor League, or Spring Training facilities, including stadiums, and may not travel with or on behalf of the Club.
The Astros took things a step further, dismissing both men. The team's assistant general manager at the time, Brandon Taubman, was also implicated in the report, and was ruled ineligible to perform services on behalf of any Major League club, either as an employee or independent contractor, through the day following the completion of the 2020 World Series, at which time he will be eligible to apply for reinstatement.
After the news of Beltran's dismissal broke on Friday (NZT), ESPN broadcaster and member of the Mets' baseball operations advisory team Jessica Mendoza was critical of Fiers for going "public with [his comments] and call [the Astros] out and start all of this, it's hard to swallow" in an appearance on ESPN Radio.
She later clarified her comments, stating it was the way in which the news was made public that she was critical of, not the fact that it was brought into the spotlight.
The Mets, Astros and Red Sox are all yet to announce new managers.