Jeff Luhnow picked the eve of the 2020 World Series to give his first public interview since being fired for his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal at the beginning of the year.
The former GM bashed MLB’s investigation into his tenure in remarks that came just after Houston was eliminated from the postseason and fans were putting tunnel vision on the Dodgers and Braves.
Luhnow diverted blame for the Astros’ transgressions toward lower-level video employees, saying he had recently reviewed internal text messages he feels prove he didn’t participate in the team’s scheme to electronically pick up rival pitching signals. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred responded by saying those same text messages were part of the league’s investigation, and that Luhnow’s inability to take a more active approach in monitoring his club’s operations could not serve as an excuse.
Luhnow told Houston TV station KPRC he looked over a trove of 22,000 messages he claims show he was innocent. He was suspended by MLB for one season, then fired by the Astros. Manager AJ Hinch met the same fate.
“It’s pretty clear who was involved in the video-decoding scheme, when it started, how often it happened and basically when it ended. And it’s also pretty clear who was not involved,” Luhnow said. “And I don’t know why that information, that evidence, wasn’t discussed in the ruling, wasn’t used. The people who were involved that didn’t leave naturally to go to other teams are all still employed by the Astros.”
Manfred, however, maintained in an ESPN Radio interview that Luhnow deserved his punishment. He said it was “beside the point” whether Luhnow explicitly directed illegal activity to occur.
“I wrote to all the GMs, and I put them on notice that it was their obligation to make sure that their organizations were not violating any of the sign-stealing rules,” Manfred said. “I think it’s pretty clear from the facts that Mr. Luhnow failed to discharge that obligation. He damaged the game, and as a result, he was disciplined.”
The Astros under Luhnow were for years viewed as the gold standard of modern MLB organizations in terms of talent identification and development. The executive ushered in an era of title contention following the franchise’s stretch as long-term bottom-dweller. The book “Astroball: The New Way to Win It All” became a New York Times best seller.
In a matter of months, Luhnow and everything he was involved in building in Houston unraveled. Last year, he watched over a World Series participant. This year, he’s angling for public attention from outside a game he may never be able to rejoin.
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