January 13th of 2020 was a dark day for the Astros’ organization, but it would pale in comparison to what was coming around the corner for the world. Around lunchtime, on that day it was announced that the MLB was suspending Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for a season as part of the punishment for the Astros’ cheating scandal. The team was fined $5 million and first and second-round draft picks were taken away from the team for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. No players were punished and no other action was taken against any other personnel or the club owner Jim Crane.
Before that information could totally sink in, Jim Crane stepped up and in what was suspected as a pre-ordained agreement with the MLB, fired Hinch and Luhnow. The Astros went out and found a very, experienced and calm figure of a manager in the 70-year-old Dusty Baker. They also went out and found a much younger and wonkier 42-year-old GM James Click from the Tampa organization.
Three weeks later, A.J. Hinch did a fairly complete mea culpa on the MLB network, the result of which, he was hired to be the Detroit Tigers new manager right when his suspension was complete. Jeff Luhnow did not truly speak out on the scandal until nine months later and it was basically a mea no culpa as he said like Sergeant Schultz “I knew nothing”. As a result, he was not in line for any jobs and in fact a few weeks later in November 2020 sued his former team for what he considers an unjust firing, that was a negotiated result between the owner and major league baseball.
January 13 was a shocking day for Houston sports fans. We suspected based on what had been rattling around that something would happen to our team and that the team would wear a sports version of The Scarlet Letter as it toured around baseball. But it was quite shocking to suddenly lose the most successful GM and Manager the team had ever known, two men who had brought a championship to the city and had put together a team that was a threat every year to go all the way.
The 2020 season due to COVID was a challenge to every organization. The team faced a ton of losses due to free agency, COVID and injury, but somehow limped along and caught fire in the playoffs to get within one win of the World Series.
So here we are a year later. We have our likely long term GM in Click (at least as long term as any person is in this “what have you done for me lately” world). We have a very likely short term manager in Baker, who is more likely to leave on his own terms due to age than to be removed. And we have a team that has basically dodged the bullet of full house road games booing the heck out of them for their misdeeds.
Have the actions of a year ago sunk in? What do we think about that?
Have the misdeeds of 2017 and 2018 sunk in? What do we think about that?
Has the injustice of major league baseball putting almost all their investigation and punishment in one basket (the Astros’ basket) sunk in? What do we think about that?
Does all this hurt less with time or will it stick with us the rest of our rooting days?