Ex-Astros GM Jeff Luhnow sues team, calls sign-stealing punishment 'negotiated result'

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Jeff Luhnow, the former Houston Astros general manager who was suspended by MLB for the team’s 2017 sign-stealing scandal, is suing the team for breach of contract, the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shahikin reported on Sunday.

Luhnow’s court filing in Houston’s district court alleges that the Astros did not fire him for a condition that would be “just cause.” Instead, the lawsuit alleges MLB’s investigation, which it puts in quotations, was in fact a “negotiated result.” It says Astros owner Jim Crane and commissioner Rob Manfred negotiated the penalties and set up Luhnow to be the scapegoat.

Luhnow files lawsuit alleging breach of contract

Jeff Luhnow, arms raised.
Former Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow is suing the team for wrongful termination. (Tim Warner/Getty Images)

The lawsuit cites concerns ranging from the fine, which is the maximum allowed under the league constitution, to the “blanket vindication” of Crane and the fact the team made it back to the ALCS in 2020.

It reads, via the Times:

“The commissioner vetted potential penalties with Crane, and the two exchanged a series of proposals. Those negotiations proved beneficial to Crane and the Astros.

“The commissioner allowed the Astros to keep their 2017 World Series championship, imposed a $5 million fine (a fraction of the revenues Crane had reaped as part of the team’s recent success), and took away four draft picks. He also issued a blanket vindication of Crane, absolving him of any responsibility for failing to supervise his club.

“Moreover, Crane and the Astros were assured of fielding a contending team in 2020 — the team advanced to the American League Championship Series for the fourth straight year — because the commissioner did not suspend or penalize any of the players who were directly involved in the scandal.”

Ex-Astros GM still not hired after suspension expires

Luhnow and former Astros manager A.J. Hinch were suspended for a year by MLB for their roles in the sign-stealing scandal that rocked baseball. The league found that the team used a system involving an illegal video feed and trash cans in 2017 and 2018 to steal signs electronically during games at their home field. The Astros won the World Series in October 2017.

Luhnow and Hinch’s suspensions expired at the conclusion of the World Series. They were both fired by the Astros immediately after the news of suspensions.

Hinch was hired as the Detroit Tigers new manager last week. Alex Cora, the Astros bench coach during the 2017 season who was let go from his job as Boston Red Sox manager over the scandal, was rehired by the team. Luhnow is still available.

Luhnow continues to deny knowledge

According to the MLB report of the investigation, Luhnow said he denied knowledge of the situation. He was suspended because he should be “aware of the activities of his staff and players” though there is evidence that indicates he knew, per the documents.

Luhnow said last month in his first interview since the firing that text messages show the video personnel knew it was a violation and one even says “Don’t tell Jeff.” Many of the people working directly in the scheme are still working for the team, he said.

The suit claims the firing cost Luhnow “more than $22 million in guaranteed compensation” and additional benefits, per the Times.

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