Former Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was suspended for one year by Major League Baseball earlier today and promptly fired by the Astros. Through his attorney, Luhnow has issued a statement in response to the news. Via Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle:
I accept responsibility for rules violations that occurred on my watch as President of Baseball Operations and General Manager of the Astros. I apologize to the Astros organization, Astros fans and the Houston community for the shame and embarrassment this has caused. I am deeply grateful to Jim Crane for the opportunity to lead baseball operations.
I am not a cheater. Anybody who has worked closely with me during my 32-year career inside and outside baseball can attest to my integrity. I did not know rules were being broken. As the Commissioner set out in his statement, I did not personally direct, oversee or engage in any misconduct: The sign-stealing initiative was not planned or directed by baseball management; the trash-can banging was driven and executed by players, and the video decoding of signs originated and was executed by lower-level employees working with the bench coach. I am deeply upset that I wasn’t informed of any misconduct because I would have stopped it.
I agree with Mr. Crane that our baseball operations team has achieved far more positives beyond this significant negative. Many very good people have worked, and continue to work, for the Astros organization. I am extremely proud of the many executives throughout the industry who were trained and promoted in our department.
As seemed to be standard operating procedure for the Astros in the Luhnow era during its many scandals, Luhnow blames everyone other than himself. That was what the Astros did during the Brandon Taubman scandal, for example.
Rather than admitting to his culpability (well, he did in paragraph one but negated it with paragraph two), Luhnow is pleading ignorance, which still is not a great look. Even if he is telling the truth that he had no idea what was going on, he is saying he was not actively involved in keeping himself up to date on the goings-on within his organization and that his employees didn’t respect him or the organization enough to follow the rules. In other words, Luhnow is either corrupt or very bad at his job. He chose the “bad at my job” route. Manfred said it better in the report: “Regardless of the level of Luhnow’s actual knowledge, the Astros’ violation of rules in 2017 and 2018 is attributable, in my view, to a failure by the leaders of the baseball operations department and the Field Manager to adequately manage the employees under their supervision, to establish a culture in which adherence to the rules is ingrained in the fabric of the organization, and to stop bad behavior as soon as it occurred.”
Referring broadly to the Astros’ front office and analytics departments, Manfred wrote in the report, “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. At least in my view, the baseball operations department’s insular culture – one that valued and rewarded results over other considerations, combined with a staff of individuals who often lacked direction or sufficient oversight, led, at least in part, to the Brandon Taubman incident, the Club’s admittedly inappropriate and inaccurate response to that incident, and finally, to an environment that allowed the conduct described in this report to have occurred.”
That Luhnow would blithely cite Manfred’s report as if it supported his innocence, when in reality it skewers him, is just as interesting a choice as his decision to claim ignorance of the Astros’ cheating.