Former Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow filed a lawsuit against the team in Houston, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Luhnow alleges Astros owner Jim Crane and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred made him the "scapegoat for the organization" after the team's sign-stealing scandal was unearthed.
In the lawsuit, Luhnow claims the investigation was not much of an investigation at all, but rather a "negotiation resolution" that "enabled the team to keep its (2017) World Series championship, went to great lengths to publicly exonerate Crane, and scapegoated Luhnow for a sign-stealing scandal that he had no knowledge of and played no part in."
It is true Manfred went to great lengths to exonerate Crane -- the very first paragraph in Manfred's nine-page report detailing the investigation says Crane was unaware of the scheme -- though Luhnow faces an uphill battle convincing anyone he had no knowledge of the scheme. Among other things, .
Here's more from the lawsuit, via Shaikin:
"The commissioner vetted potential penalties with Crane, and the two exchanged a series of proposals," the suit reads. "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."
Luhnow recently claimed innocence during a television interview, saying: "I didn't know we were cheating. I had no idea. I wasn't involved." . Also, Manfred warned all 30 teams in 2017 that the general manager would be held responsible for sign-stealing infractions.
The viability of Luhnow's lawsuit is unclear. It's unlikely Manfred and other MLB executives would want to be deposed under oath about their investigation into the sign-stealing scandal, which could facilitate a settlement. The lawsuit could also be dismissed entirely should Luhnow's initial claims prove unconvincing. I know this much: this will not be the last we hear of this.
Earlier this year MLB suspended Luhnow and former Astros manager AJ Hinch one year as a result of the scandal, and Crane fired both men soon thereafter. The team was also fined $5 million, the maximum allowed under the MLB Constitution, and stripped of four high draft picks. No players were suspended because they were promising immunity in exchange for honest testimony.
Luhnow has been connected to numerous front office openings in recent weeks, including the Angels. Suing the Astros would not seem to bode well for his chances of returning to the game, though keep in mind Alex Rodriguez sued everyone in sight (MLB, the MLBPA, Manfred, the Yankees, etc.) following his 2014 performance-enhancing drug suspension, yet he's still heavily involved in the sport.
Luhnow, 53, joined the Astros in Dec. 2011. The lawsuit says he signed a multi-year contract extension in 2018 that guaranteed him more than $31 million and included performance and profit-sharing bonuses. Luhnow says the alleged breach of contract cost him more than $22 million in compensation.