Jan 13, 2020
Houston Astros Owner Jim Crane Transcript: Crane Fires Hinch & Luhnow Amid Sign-Stealing Scandal
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane held a press conference with the media on January 13, 2020 shortly after the MLB announced that they decided to suspend manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for stealing signs in their 2017 World Series season. An MLB investigation confirmed the Astros had cheated by using a camera-based sign-stealing system. Crane shortly after decided to release both Hinch and Luhnow from the Astros organization. Read the full transcript of Jim Crane’s statement to the media right here.
Jim Crane: (00:00)
First, let me start out. Thank you all for coming on short notice. Today’s a very difficult day for the Houston Astros. MLB did a very thorough investigation and the Astros fully cooperated. We accept their decisions and findings and penalties. We’ve worked very hard to build this organization for our employees, fans, sponsors, community, and the city to all be proud.
Jim Crane: (00:32)
With that being said, there’s two very important points I want to make today. I have higher standards for the city and the franchise and I’m going above and beyond MLB’s penalty. Today, I have made the decision to dismiss A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow. We need to move forward with a clean slate, and the Astros will become stronger; a stronger organization because of this today. You can be confident that we will always do the right thing and will not have this happen again on my watch.
Jim Crane: (01:16)
With that being said, you guys have a copy of the commissioner’s report. I’ll be glad to answer questions.
Speaker 2: (01:21)
Okay. Raise your hand. David Baron right here.
David Baron: (01:26)
Was the decision to fire Luhnow or not to retain, bring them back Luhnow and Hinch after their suspensions made after the receive the report, was this a decision that you made prior to today?
Jim Crane: (01:38)
Yeah, we didn’t really find out about the decision, the final decision till on the weekend and after I had their findings, I decided to make that decision today.
Speaker 2: (01:50)
Okay. Chandler right here.
Jim, who will run baseball operations and who will run the team in the interim?
Jim Crane: (01:59)
Well, we’ll quickly look for someone to manage the team as soon as we get out of here today. Certainly we have possibilities internally. We’ll also look outside the baseball operation. I will oversee, we have a number of capable guys that can run that operation, number of them were interviewed for GM spots, one in particular and so we’ll sit down today and start working on that and move as quickly as we can.
Speaker 2: (02:26)
Next question. Okay.
Speaker 5: (02:33)
Jim, how did both AJ and Jeff take your decision when you told them?
Jim Crane: (02:39)
I just spoke to both of them just a few minutes ago. They’ve got their letters from baseball, AJ was upset. I think he understands the consequences and he said, “I’m sorry and I’ll do whatever I can to help the team.” Jeff was a little bit shorter, was traveling and so I just informed him and he said okay, and he’d get with me when he gets back.
Speaker 2: (03:04)
Okay. Christie, right? Yeah.
Do you think that any of the players should have been suspended for this incident?
Jim Crane: (03:12)
No players will be suspended from this.
Speaker 2: (03:16)
Okay. Mark over here.
Can you just go into to why you decided to go ahead and fire Jeff and AJ?
Jim Crane: (03:29)
Well, I felt that with what came out in the report, they both had responsibilities. Jeff, running the baseball operation and overseeing AJ and all of those people associated with that and AJ on the bench and was aware, if you read the report, it’s pretty clear AJ didn’t endorse it and neither did Jeff. Neither one of them started this, but neither one of them did anything about it and that’s how we came to the conclusion.
I know that you said at the start that you’ve accepted what baseball has done. Do you feel like the punishment fit the crime?
Jim Crane: (04:04)
Listen, it’s a stiffest penalty that any team has ever taken or given and we accept that. We’re going to move forward in a positive way. I’ll let the commissioner determine how he handles the rest of it.
Speaker 2: (04:20)
Who’s standing order? Kim, you’re next.
Jim, can you talk about how soon you think that all the changes you’ll be able to be up to speed as an organization? How much of a drop off of any you expect with this?
Jim Crane: (04:36)
I’ve been sitting in a few meetings last week in particular on the mediation and the contracts that we don’t have signed, so I don’t think it’s going to take long. We’ve got a short window here. We’ve got to get ready for spring training February 15th or sooner. We’ll work very hard to try to take care of the team first and then look at the baseball operations. As I said, we’ve got good leaders in a number of those spots and so it’s just a manner of organizing and managing that staff for the next 30 days. And hopefully we can get someone in to take to point.
Speaker 2: (05:13)
Jim, does this taint the world series championship and what do you say to the fans right now?
Jim Crane: (05:20)
Well, I think absolutely not. I think we’ve had a very good team for a number of years before 17 we were turning the corner, 18, 19 we have a very good team on the field this year. You know, I think we’ll have a great season. Got a lot of great players still and I don’t think it taints it.
Speaker 2: (05:43)
Okay. Jake and then Jerome.
Jim, in the report, Manfred describe the culture of the baseball operations department as very problematic. What was your reaction to reading that assessment?
Jim Crane: (05:58)
I don’t agree with that. I think we’ve got a lot of people here. We’ve got a lot of great people. We have over 400 people working here. And they work hard. And I think there were some isolated situations that led to that we have one of the best business operations in baseball and I think if we did have any problems, we’ll quickly define those problems and move forward in a very positive way. I don’t think there’s anything difficult. We had one of the best baseball operations in the business and got a lot of great results. So that didn’t happen with one or two people, that happened with a lot of good people. And so we’ll move forward to handle that in a very professional manner. And it’s not an extremely big organization. So I think if there’s any problems we’ll root them out and we’ll fix it.
Speaker 2: (06:50)
Okay, Jerome and then Jesus.
Jim, You’ve always said you take pride in doing things the right way and having an organization that runs in a certain way. And you’ve also talked about AJ and Jeff as two of your greatest hires and what they meant to you. How personally disappointed are you in that they allowed this to go on?
Jim Crane: (07:11)
Listen, when I found out I was very upset. We want to be known as playing by the rules. We broke the rules, we accept the punishment and we’re going to move forward. It’s very unfortunate. As I said earlier, if you read the report, neither one of those guys implemented this or pushed it through the system. It really came from the bottom up. It’s pretty clear in the report how that happened, but neither one of them did anything about it. And that’s unfortunate. And the consequences are severe.
Speaker 2: (07:47)
Okay. Jesus and then Brian.
Jim, you’re a self made man. Your organization rose from the top almost in your image. How disappointing was it to you that they did take these shortcuts that season?
Jim Crane: (08:03)
I didn’t hear the last part.
How disappointed is it to you that they did take these shortcuts in that season that you won that the title?
Jim Crane: (08:10)
Well, it’s upsetting. There’s nothing that’s clear to suggest it affected the outcome. I think you could be all over the place with this. But listen, it’s again, as I said before, we’ve got a great team. I feel we have the best team on the field then. I thought we had a great team in 18, things didn’t fall our way. We got down to the last game in the World Series and that didn’t fall our way. So baseball’s tough to win. And again, I think we have a great organization, we have a great team still, we’ll continue to work on that. But listen, none of this is fun and I’m not happy that it happened, but it happened and we’re dealing with it.
Speaker 2: (08:52)
Jim, about your search for a manager, do you expect to have a full time manager by the time spring training starts? Or could you have an interim manager up to then?
Jim Crane: (09:03)
I think that could go either way it just depends. As I said, I really haven’t worked on that. We’ve been focused on visiting today and getting this behind us. It could go either way. I mean certainly we have a bench coach that’s capable. We’ll certainly look outside, but we know we’ve got to have somebody in charge when we go to spring training. So that could be interim. I don’t have the answer yet, but we’ll make it work.
Speaker 2: (09:25)
Okay. Adam, go ahead.
Excuse me. Jim, did the Brandon Taubman incident and the follow up from that play any factor in the the dismissal of Jeff?
Jim Crane: (09:36)
No, I think those are totally two separate incidents. You know, Brandon was here. We dealt with that when that story went down. It was unfortunate we didn’t have all the facts when we made a decision. We apologize for that. And Brandon’s no longer an employee.
Speaker 2: (09:53)
Going forward, do you think there’s can be anything like an accountability system or anything you’re going to implement, so something like this can never happen again?
Jim Crane: (10:04)
Yeah, I think with the technology coming into the dugout as it did with the replay system, that kind of triggered some of this and with the replays very close and sometimes even in the dugout. We’re going to put some checks and balances in. We’re going to study the rule book and we’re going to have a compliance program in place to make sure as I said earlier, that this doesn’t happen again.
Speaker 2: (10:29)
Okay. David, then Chandler.
David Baron: (10:29)
There’s a reference in the report to several junior employees who may have had knowledge of this scheme. Will any discipline be taken for them or has any discipline been taken in that regard against them?
Jim Crane: (10:42)
We’re still reviewing that, lower level employees. We’re taking direction from senior either players or coaches and so my opinion is going to be difficult to hold them to the same standard we hold to the leaders but we’ll review that after today and deal with that shortly.
Speaker 2: (11:03)
Jim, Jeff hired a lot of the people below him in the organization. Same with AJ on his coaching staff. Given the drastic action you took with those two, does that make it, for lack of a better word, would you want to clean house? Would you want to just start with a brand new foundation to kind of get rid of everything that transpired?
Jim Crane: (11:22)
Well, I don’t think it’s a big number of people in the baseball operations that were engaged with that on a daily basis. So I don’t think it’s a house cleaning. I think if you want to talk about house cleaning, I don’t think the manager and the general manager have gotten fired in the same day. So I think that’s a pretty big house cleaning and we’ll work from there.
Speaker 2: (11:42)
Mr. Crane, you talked about the fact that this is obviously not a very happy day for you in your organization on a personal level, but at the same time being that Mr. Luhnow, an architect of this transformation, almost bringing this team from the National League to the American League. Does it also concerns you about the uncertainty that the future has an immediate future of the Astros and if so, why? And if it doesn’t concern you, why doesn’t it concern you?
Jim Crane: (12:09)
Well, certainly it concerns me. I’m losing two key people that are very bright and did a lot of great things here. Whatever you want to say. AJ had five unbelievable seasons here and Jeff put into foundation. It really changed how baseball operations work around the league and people can talk about the people that left or weren’t hired back. But there’s also a lot of people out there that got promoted into GM jobs that came out of this environment. So I don’t think it was all bad. I think it was a lot, a lot of good and some unfortunate things that happened here when you really break it down, didn’t make a lot of sense to why we were even doing it. So I’m optimistic. Listen, as I said this thing is deep here. There’s a lot of smart people here. I think we’ll have a speed bump here. Not to make this light, but this is a tough day. But can we recover? Absolutely. And we’ll have a great team next year.
Speaker 2: (13:10)
Speaker 16: (13:12)
Jim, there’s been other situations, right over here. There’s been other sign stealing allegations lobbied against this team. Did you ever ask Jeff and AJ about those and at those times? And what did they say to you about them?
Jim Crane: (13:27)
Well, first of all, there was a lot of interviews done. I wasn’t in the interviews. I think there’s a lot of information out there that this was a problem within baseball. Commissioner put out a warning. And in 2017 there was a couple of teams fined. Listen, it’s clear when you hear the guys talk that they were doing, talking about what other teams did and this, that and the other. I have no proof of any of that and it’s not my job to investigate that. The commissioner assured me that every team and every allegation will be checked out and he’ll conduct the same investigation he conducted on us and I’m focused on the Astros and that’s all I’m going to talk about.
Speaker 2: (14:13)
Okay. Mark over here.
Jim in all your business dealings prior to owning the Astros. Now the Astros, is this your toughest day ever?
Jim Crane: (14:24)
This is a tough day. I’ve had a lot of tough days over the year, but yeah, this is definitely.
Speaker 2: (14:34)
Okay. Kim, back here.
Jim, you’ve had Astro fans that have been with you since the rebuilding, the whole process of getting back up. What do you say to fans today to encourage them about hanging in there doing this transition?
Jim Crane: (14:55)
Listen, our fans are great. One of the reasons we’re successful is we’ve got great support from the community, from the sponsors and the fans. So far we haven’t seen any change there. I think we’re addressing the problem. We apologize to our fans and all of our sponsors and the city in general and we’re going to move forward. We cleaned house, it’s behind us and we’re going to make this right and we’re going to play baseball, come spring.
Speaker 2: (15:25)
Okay. A couple more Jerome.
A couple of things. Jim. One, when the commissioner put out the directives a couple of years ago with a memorandum about the electronic sign stealing, did y’all have an organizational meeting or did you have a discussion with AJ and Jeff at the time?
Jim Crane: (15:40)
Yeah, I generally get all the memorandums from baseball. I did talk to Jeff at that time. I think it’s in the report and said, listen, I hope we’re not doing any of this. If we are, you guys need to knock it off. So I did warn him and it’s in the report.
Speaker 2: (16:03)
Okay. Last one. Jake.
Jim, for your next GM. It sounds like from what you said earlier, you haven’t ruled out the possibility of someone who’s already here and hiring internally. Is that accurate?
Jim Crane: (16:14)
Yeah. We’re going to sit down with the team and go over the organization. I mean it’s not a big organization. There’s a lot of people there and all of them matter and all of them have skill sets. I’m going to evaluate that and see what we have inside and we’ll start looking outside. I think it’s a very good job. I think a lot of people would want to come in here and step into that position.
Speaker 2: (16:35)
Okay. We’re going to wrap up now, folks. Thank you, Jim.
Jim Crane: (16:37)
Thank you. Guys.