No men­tion of Elias in re­port on cheat­ing

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Nathan Ruiz

On Mon­day, Ma­jor League Base­ball re­leased its find­ings on the Hous­ton Astros’ sign-steal­ing scan­dal, wherein the team used video to steal op­pos­ing teams’ signs dur­ing the 2017 sea­son in which it won the World Se­ries, is­su­ing harsh penal­ties to an or­ga­ni­za­tion whose re­build­ing model the Ori­oles are at­tempt­ing to fol­low.

MLBfined the Astros $5 mil­lion, re­voked the team’s first- and sec­ond-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021 and is­sued sea­son­long sus­pen­sions to man­ager AJ Hinch and gen­eral man­ager Jeff Luh­now, both of whom owner Jim Crane fired shortly af­ter the an­nounce­ment of the penal­ties. The league’s re­port de­tail­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion’s find­ings made no spe­cific men­tion of any of the sev­eral mem­bers of Ori­oles lead­er­ship who worked for Hous­ton dur­ing that 2017 sea­son, in­clud­ing ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent/ gen­eral man­ager Mike Elias, whose work

with the Astros fo­cused on scout­ing and not on the field level.

MLB’s depart­ment of in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­ter­viewed 68 in­di­vid­u­als, in­clud­ing 23 cur­rent and for­mer Astros em­ploy­ees, and re­viewed “tens of thou­sands of emails, Slack com­mu­ni­ca­tions, text mes­sages, video clips, and pho­to­graphs,” per the re­port.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the Astros’ meth­ods in 2017 and 2018 to de­code and com­mu­ni­cate op­po­nents’ signs to the bat­ter were not an ini­tia­tive that was planned or di­rected by the club’s top base­ball op­er­a­tions of­fi­cials. Rather, the 2017 scheme in which play­ers banged on a trash can to com­mu­ni­cate signs was, with the ex­cep­tion of then-bench coach and cur­rent Red Sox man­ager Alex Cora, player-driven and player-ex­e­cuted.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion also re­vealed that Luh­now nei­ther de­vised nor ac­tively di­rected the ef­forts of the replay re­view room staff to de­code signs in 2017 or 2018, though “there is both doc­u­men­tary and tes­ti­mo­nial ev­i­dence that in­di­cates Luh­now had some knowl­edge of those ef­forts, but he did not give it much at­ten­tion.”

MLB Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred held Luh­now ac­count­able for the club’s con­duct, say­ing “It is the job of the gen­eral man­ager to be aware of the ac­tiv­i­ties of his staff and play­ers, and to en­sure that those ac­tiv­i­ties com­port with both stan­dards of con­duct set by club own­er­ship and MLB rules.”

“Some lower-level Astros em­ploy­ees were aware of the rules vi­o­la­tions or par­tic­i­pated in the vi­o­la­tions at the di­rec­tion of oth­ers,” Man­fred wrote in the re­port. “I will de­fer to the Astros whether the con­duct of th­ese more ju­nior em­ploy­ees mer­its dis­ci­pline or other re­me­dial ac­tion.”

Elias was a long­time deputy of Luh­now, both in Hous­ton and pre­vi­ously with the St. Louis Car­di­nals. Elias joined St. Louis as a scout in 2007 dur­ing Luh­now’s ten­ure as the Car­di­nals’ vice pres­i­dent of scout­ing and player de­vel­op­ment. When Luh­now be­came Hous­ton’s gen­eral man­ager in 2011, Elias fol­lowed, even­tu­ally serv­ing as the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s di­rec­tor of am­a­teur scout­ing and an as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager. Sev­eral play­ers Elias drafted, in­clud­ing top-two draft picks Car­los Cor­rea and Alex Breg­man, were heavy con­trib­u­tors to Hous­ton’s 2017 World Se­ries ti­tle.

The Ori­oles hired Elias in Novem­ber 2018 to head their base­ball op­er­a­tions depart­ment. He has since worked to re­build the Ori­oles in a sim­i­lar man­ner to what was done in Hous­ton, where re­sources were di­verted from the ma­jor league ros­ter — lead­ing to pro­longed los­ing — to build­ing in­fra­struc­ture in am­a­teur and in­ter­na­tional scout­ing, his spe­cial­ties dur­ing his Hous­ton ten­ure.

With Bal­ti­more, Elias has made sev­eral hires linked to his time work­ing with Luh­now, in­clud­ing as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager of an­a­lyt­ics Sig Me­j­dal, di­rec­tor of base­ball de­vel­op­ment Eve Rosen­baum, di­rec­tor of pitch­ing Chris Holt and di­rec­tor of player de­vel­op­ment Matt Blood. All but Blood worked for Hous­ton in 2017, with Me­j­dal and Holt in on-field roles in the mi­nor leagues and Rosen­baum work­ing un­der Elias in in­ter­na­tional scout­ing.

“I can’t com­ment on the spe­cific [sign­steal­ing] in­ves­ti­ga­tion that we read is tak­ing place for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, but I think neg­a­tive at­ten­tion that’s been di­rected to­wards the Astros re­cently is a shame,” Elias said at the gen­eral man­ager meet­ings in Novem­ber. “I’m very aware of all the good things and good peo­ple and in­cred­i­ble work and hard work that was done there ba­si­cally over most of this decade to build that fran­chise into what it is now.

“I hate to see those ac­com­plish­ments and those peo­ple dis­par­aged just by as­so­ci­a­tion with a cou­ple of weird episodes. We’ll see how it all shakes out, but there are a lot of pos­i­tives — the peo­ple who run that place and the op­er­a­tion as a whole that just un­for­tu­nately is be­ing over­shad­owed by some neg­a­tiv­ity right now. We’ll see where in re­gards to this lat­est sit­u­a­tion, we’ll see where the league takes it. But I hope for the best.”

Elias did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Mon­day.

In the re­port, MLB com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred con­demned the Astros’ cul­ture, ref­er­enc­ing an in­ci­dent dur­ing the 2019 World Se­ries where then-as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager Bran­don Taub­man yelled at three fe­male reporters. Although the Astros ini­tially de­nied mul­ti­ple ac­counts of Taub­man’s ac­tions, he was even­tu­ally fired and Mon­day was placed on base­ball’s in­el­i­gi­ble list through the end of the 2020 World Se­ries.

“Luh­now is widely con­sid­ered to be one of the most suc­cess­ful base­ball ex­ec­u­tives of his gen­er­a­tion, cred­ited with ush­er­ing in the sec­ond ‘an­a­lyt­ics’ revo­lu­tion in base­ball and re­build­ing the Hous­ton Astros into a peren­nial Post­sea­son con­tender,” Man­fred wrote. “But while no one can dis­pute that Luh­now’s base­ball op­er­a­tions depart­ment is an in­dus­try leader in its an­a­lyt­ics, it is very clear to me that the cul­ture of the base­ball op­er­a­tions depart­ment, man­i­fest­ing it­self in the way its em­ploy­ees are treated, its re­la­tions with other Clubs, and its re­la­tions with the me­dia and ex­ter­nal stake­hold­ers, has been very prob­lem­atic.”

With the Astros los­ing their top two draft picks in 2020, the Ori­oles have three of the first 39 picks in June, in­clud­ing sec­ond over­all.

KAREN WAR­REN/HOUS­TON CHRON­I­CLE

Ori­oles ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent/gen­eral man­ager Mike Elias, left, pic­tured in 2015, worked un­der Astros gen­eral man­ager Jeff Luh­now, right, for sev­eral years in St. Louis and Hous­ton. Astros owner Jim Crane fired Luh­now and man­ager AJ Hinch on Mon­day in the wake of MLB’s find­ings re­gard­ing Hous­ton’s sign-steal­ing scan­dal.

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