How Astros' sign-stealing punishment compares to notable past MLB penalties

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor

The Houston Astros sign-stealing controversy rocked Major League Baseball over the past three months, already becoming one of the sport’s most famous scandals.

Punishments came Monday and they were just as harsh, as Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were each suspended for the 2020 season. The team was additionally fined $5 million, the maximum allowable fine, and they were dinged their first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.

There will still be more to come, however, as Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora played a big part in the sign-stealing scheme. He will be punished as part of the investigation into allegations against the Red Sox.

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For now, this stands as one of the biggest punishments handed down by MLB, certainly in recent years. Here’s a look at some of MLB’s other major scandals over the years.

Pete Rose gets lifetime ban for betting on baseball

When it comes to baseball scandals, few can rival that of Pete Rose betting on baseball.

On Aug. 24, 1989, MLB's all-time hit king agreed to accept a lifetime ban from baseball in return for commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti not making a formal determination about whether or not Rose had bet on baseball.

Rose has applied for and been denied reinstatement on several occasions. He has also been denied entry into the National Baseball Hall of Fame despite being among its most qualified candidates.

George Steinbrenner banned for attempted smear campaign

George Steinbrenner earned the reputation as a ruthless competitor during his time as New York Yankees owner. That over-the-top determination ultimately led to him being handed a "permanent" ban from running the club's day-to-day operations.

The punishment stemmed from Steinbrenner paying a gambler $40,000 to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield. Steinbrenner had grown obsessed with smearing Winfield's name after originally signing him to a 10-year, $23 million contract in 1981. Why? Because the Yankees’ boss felt Winfield wasn’t living up to his contract. Steinbrenner remained the Yankees owner throughout and was ultimately reinstated in 1993, but left day-to-day duties to other executives.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was banned from day-to-day operations after a scandal in 1990. (Photo by Linda Cataffo/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was banned from day-to-day operations after a scandal in 1990. (Photo by Linda Cataffo/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Cardinals fined $2 million, lose prospects in hacking scandal

The St. Louis Cardinals were fined $2 million and forced to surrender two draft picks after former scouting director Chris Correa was found to have hacked into the Astros' private database.

The punishment was considered to be light given the large scale of the investigation, which was overseen by the FBI and Justice Department. Correa was ultimately sentenced to 46 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to five counts of unauthorized access to a protected computer.

Braves executive banned for life

The Atlanta Braves lost 13 prospects and former general manager John Coppolella was banned for life in 2017 for violating MLB's international signing rules.

An MLB investigation determined that Atlanta circumvented the rules by moving bonus pool money from one player to five other prospects the team had signed between 2015 and 2017. The Braves would have exceeded their pool limit had the money been included directly in each player's contract.

The league sent a strong message with its punishments. In addition to Coppolella's lifetime ban, Gordon Blakeley, who was the team's international scouting chief, was suspended from baseball for one year.

Padres GM A.J. Preller suspended for 30 days

In 2016, San Diego Padres GM A.J. Preller was suspended 30 days after an MLB investigation into whether he properly provided medical records for Drew Pomeranz when he was traded to the Boston Red Sox and was subsequently injured.

He was suspended 30 days without pay, starting in mid-September, so he was back with the team quickly.

A-Rod suspended 211 games in connection to Biogenesis scandal

In 2013, the Biogenesis scandal rocked MLB, leading to the suspension of 13 players. The most notable was the league's highest-paid player at that time, Alex Rodriguez. The New York Yankees third baseman was suspended a total of 211 games, which included the final 49 games in 2013 and the entire 2014 season after being linked to the South Florida wellness clinic.

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, who won the NL MVP award in 2011, was given a 65-game suspension stemming from his connection to Biogenesis. The other 11 players, including Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta and Francisco Cervelli, were suspended 50 games.

Red Sox, Yankees fined for sign-stealing infractions

The Boston Red Sox allegedly used the video replay room to steal opponent’s signs during the 2018 season, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported on Jan. 7. But that's not the first time Boston has been accused of illegal sign-stealing tactics.

In 2017, both the Red Sox and the New York Yankees were fined an undisclosed amount for infractions that violated the league's heightened sign-stealing policy brought on by the advancement of technology available to MLB teams.

The Red Sox were punished after a trainer was caught looking at his watch and then relaying a message to players. The Yankees filed the original complaint, and were later hit with a smaller fine after MLB determined they previously violated a separate rule by using their dugout phone to relay information.

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