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Astros won't give back their World Series trophy, but scandal will always shroud 2017 season

Updated 9:21 PM ET, Tue January 14, 2020

(CNN) - The Houston Astros won't be handing the 2017 Commissioner's Trophy back to Rob Manfred.

And the Dodgers won't be claiming a title and holding a parade in Los Angeles.

"I am neither in a position to evaluate whether the scheme helped Astros hitters (who were unquestionably a very talented group), nor whether it helped the Astros win any games," said Manfred, the MLB commissioner, in announcing that manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended without pay for one season for a sign-stealing scandal.

Astros owner and chairman Jim Crane on Monday fired Hinch and Luhnow after Major League Baseball found the club illegally created a system that decoded and communicated the opposing teams' pitching signs during their 2017 championship season.

The team must forfeit its regular first- and second-round selections in 2020 and 2021 drafts and pay a $5 million fine.

But the Astros will keep their title -- forever shrouded in scandal.

For evidence of this, look at the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, sportscaster Bob Costas said.

The Cincinnati Reds are still 1919 champions after beating the heavily favored Chicago White Sox.

Eight White Sox players, including "Shoeless Joe" Jackson, were accused of conspiring with gamblers to throw the series. The players were later acquitted in a 1921 trial but were banned for life from professional baseball by then-commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. A ninth player, Joe Gedeon of the St. Louis Browns, was also banned for life for having prior knowledge of the fix.

"I think the rationale and the history is, 'Look we know that the 1919 Chicago White Sox, known as the Black Sox, they threw the World Series, but the record books still say that the Cincinnati Reds are the 1919 World Champions,' " Costas told CNN.

"And the record book says that Barry Bonds has more home runs than Hank Aaron and that Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds all hit more home runs in a season than Babe Ruth or Roger Maris," Costas added, referring to former players entangled in baseball's scandal with performance-enhancing drugs.

"But the fans and baseball historians make of that what they will, even though it's there in stark black and white in the record books. I think their notion is, 'Look, if we start parsing all this, when does it end. If we pull on this thread, does the whole garment unravel?' "

Baseball historian and author Marty Appel said the Astros 2017 championship -- like many of the home-run records of the steroid era -- will forever be footnoted by the cheating scheme.

"It's not going to happen," he said of the Astros vacating their title. "It's happened in the NCAA, but it hasn't happened in professional sports, at least in America."

The investigation stemmed from a report in November in The Athletic, a sports news website, in which former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers -- who now pitches for Oakland -- said he warned his new teammates that at the Astros' home games, Houston used an outfield camera fixed on the opposing catcher to steal signs and relay the information to hitters.

The MLB investigation found that at the start of the 2017 season, employees in the Astros video replay review room started using the live game feed from the center field camera to decode and transmit opposing teams' sign sequences to use when an Astros runner was on second base.

When the sign sequence was decoded, a player in the video replay room would act as a "runner" to pass along the information to the dugout, according to the findings.

A person in the dugout would notify players in the dugout or signal the sign sequence to a runner on second base. That runner would decipher the catcher's sign, and signal to the batter from second base, the investigation found.

"Unfortunately, much like the steroid scandal, this now leaves all of the players who were on the Astros subject to scrutiny or innuendo regarding who on the Astros was actually involved in this," Notre Dame Law School Professor Emeritus Ed Edmonds, who specializes in sports law.


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