One of the few people punished for the Astros' cheating still refuses to take any blame for it

Deesha Thosar, New York Daily News
·4 min read

Not me, my hands are clean.

Jeff Luhnow’s interview with KPRC’s Vanessa Richardson about his former team’s sign-stealing scandal can be boiled down to those six words.

Luhnow blamed his underlings and pardoned himself from any wrongdoing in the 2017 and ‘18 electronic scheme, which resulted in a championship title for Houston that Major League Baseball deemed legitimate despite the sign-stealing evidence and repercussions some of the front office and team staff faced.

“I didn’t know we were cheating. I had no idea,” Luhnow told KPRC in his first sit-down interview since MLB issued a one-year suspension in January. “I wasn’t involved … I didn’t know. I didn’t know about either of them. And it felt like, on that day, that I was getting punished for something that I didn’t do. And it didn’t feel right.”

MLB’s investigation found the Astros used a camera-based, trash-can-banging system to cheat in their World-Series winning 2017 season and part of the 2018 regular season. The league delivered one-year suspensions without pay to Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch for the 2020 season, and Astros owner Jim Crane fired them both after MLB’s announcement.

Luhnow said his documented ignorance of the scandal derives from interviews within the Astros organization. The league investigated players, video staff members, coaches, and more and “none of them said that I knew,” according to Luhnow. He said “emails, text messages, slack messages, tens of thousands of messages from different people” were involved.

“After the investigation was over and I was fired, I got access to about 22,000 text messages that were from personnel in the video room,” Luhnow said. “And it was clear from those messages that they were communicating back and forth about the rule violations. They were aware of the Red Sox and Yankees rule violations, they were aware it was wrong, and they also were using text messages to cheat on the job.

“They were communicating signs, and this was to coaches, to people in the video room. It’s all there in black and white. And what’s also clear from it is who’s not involved. I’m not implicated. I’m not in any of those text messages. In fact, there’s a few text messages where they say, ‘Don’t tell Jeff.’”

Then-Red Sox manager Alex Cora was also delivered a one-year suspension by the league for his video-room involvement in the scandal. Cora was the Astros bench coach in the 2017 season. He served as Boston’s manager from 2018-19. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred also pointed to the Red Sox’s illegal use of an Apple Watch in 2017 as the warning signal that teams will face severe punishment if found to be cheating.

“The people who were involved, that didn’t leave naturally to go to other teams, are all still employed by the Astros,” Luhnow said. “In fact, one of the people who was intimately involved, I had demoted from a position in the clubhouse to a position somewhere else, and after I was fired, he was promoted back into the clubhouse.”

At this point, just say his name. What’s with the subliminal messaging, Luhnow?

“So, none of those people faced any repercussions,” Luhnow said. “They weren’t discussed in the report, but the evidence is all there that they were involved.”

The now-fired GM approached Manfred about offering to do a lie-detector test, Luhnow claimed. Manfred denied the polygraph test, after which Luhnow gathered that Manfred “had his mind made up” and “was going to punish me” because “there was nowhere else to go.”

Luhnow, throughout the interview, indicated he was surprised the league found that the Astros had “indeed” broken the rules which ultimately led to his dismissal by Crane, who remains team owner today. The Astros’ full punishment included a $5 million fine and the loss of their first and second round draft picks in 2020 and ‘21.

“I think the investigation was not attempting to really uncover who did what, and who was really responsible.” Luhnow said. “The goal of the investigation was to deliver punishments that Rob could feel good about and that would calm the panic.”

For those who want a lesson in taking responsibility for one’s actions, look anywhere but how Luhnow is attempting to control this situation. His pursuit of insisting innocence is unsurprising, given his track record of suggesting to Manfred and the league that he was never involved. (Of course, his address CC’ed in a thread of incriminating emails suggests otherwise.)

But Luhnow’s newest undertaking, in which he hurls his former staff and players in front of a moving train, is spineless. If the former GM hopes to land another such opportunity in the industry, surely, he must know besmirching his subordinates is not the brightest way to go about it.

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