Former Astros chief suing team over cheating scandal

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Former Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow is suing the team for breach of contract following his sacking over a 2017 sign-stealing scandal, court filings showed on Monday.

Luhnow was fired in January along with team manager A.J. Hinch after a Major League Baseball investigation into the cheating that tainted the Astros' World Series-winning season three years ago.

Both Luhnow and Hinch were sacked by the Astros after being banned for the entire 2020 campaign by MLB. The Astros were also fined $5 million.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in Harris County District Court in Texas, however, Luhnow claims he was scapegoated by the Astros and is seeking $22 million he was owed on his outstanding contract.

Luhnow and Hinch were the only two individuals to be punished by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred over the scandal after Astros players were given immunity in exchange for testimony.

Luhnow's lawsuit alleged that the architect of the sign-stealing scam remained employed by the team.

"The Astros' termination of Luhnow is an attempt to make Luhnow the scapegoat for the organization while the players and video-room staff who devised and executed the schemes went unpunished," the lawsuit said.

"Even more egregiously, most of the culprits in the sign-stealing scheme remained employed by the club. The Astros concocted grounds to fire Luhnow 'for Cause' in order to save more than $22 million in guaranteed salary."

The sign-stealing scandal erupted when former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic website about the scheme in a November 2019 interview.

Fiers revealed how cameras secretly placed in centerfield would record signals used by opposing pitchers and catchers. The dugout would then communicate to Astros batters what kind of pitch to expect by banging on a trash can.

In an interview last month, Luhnow insisted he had not been aware of the cheating scandal.

"I didn't know we were cheating," Luhnow told KPRC television in Houston. "I had no idea. I wasn't involved."

Luhnow's lawsuit instead points the finger at Astros director of advance information Tom Koch-Weser, who remains employed by the team.

The suit also rejected a MLB claim that there was evidence Luhnow was aware of the cheating.

"In fact there is no credible evidence that Luhnow had any such knowledge," the lawsuit reads, alleging that MLB chief Manfred had only "one untrustworthy source -- the actual ringleader of the Astros sign-stealing schemes who implicated Luhnow to save his own job."