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Luhnow sues Astros, says firing was due to financials, not stealing signs

Houston AstrosFormer Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow is suing the team, saying he was fired not because of the MLB sign-stealing scandal in 2017 and 2018, but to save owner Jim Crane $22 million in guaranteed salary.

Luhnow was suspended by Major League Baseball for a year in January after an investigation of the practice by the Astros to steal signs for an edge. He has maintained, since news of the investigation, that he was unaware of the sign stealing and was innocent. The investigation, however, uncovered email chains that Luhnow clearly read and replied to referencing the practice; for his part, Luhnow says he did not read those emails in their entirety and has offered to take a lie-detector test to prove his innocence. (Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were suspended for the 2020 season, but Hinch has resurfaced as manager of the Detroit Tigers for 2021. Also back as Red Sox manager: Alex Cora.) From the Los Angeles Times:

That statement, the suit alleges, is based on “selected snippets” from three documents: one that referenced “Codebreaker;” another that referenced “The System;” and a third that referenced “dark arts.” Sign stealing is considered an art in baseball and, the suit alleges, none of those documents mentioned the infraction in question: “in-game electronic sign stealing.”

In February, the Wall Street Journal reported that Manfred had told Luhnow the investigation had uncovered an email to him that referenced “our dark arts, sign-stealing department.” The email had been sent by Tom Koch-Weser, an Astros employee described in the suit as “the ringleader of the Astros’ sign-stealing schemes.”

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

The breech-of-contract lawsuit was filed in Harris County (Texas) district court.

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