The 2017 Houston Astros cheating scandal just got juicer.
A new story at The Athletic covers an excerpt from a new book that goes into detail on Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Astros trash can scheme during the 2017 season.
According to the report, it’s standard practice in MLB investigations to collect phone data, and league detectives notify those involved that they need to preserve their phones to comply.
Former Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was one of those notified by MLB that his phone would be examined. He apparently told one of his top lieutenants, Bill Firkus, to disseminate information to the rest of the organization that the league would likely be checking their phones:
“Speaking to investigators, Firkus’ initial recollection of Luhnow’s request is said to have been that Luhnow had called in a quick and hurried manner, and that Luhnow had asked him to tell others to delete information from their phone.”
Another Astros employee confirmed that, saying that he believed that the messaging essentially communicated that “MLB is coming, and that there’s a chance they can take your phone, so if you have things you don’t want anyone to see, I would get rid of them.”
Luhnow denied the allegations, saying that he “fully cooperated” with the investigation, however the report says that MLB believed only one person had actually deleted material from the phone – Jeff Luhnow.
Rob Manfred wrote a letter to Luhnow detailing how he believed Luhnow had waylaid MLB’s search for more information.
“Your credibility is further impacted by the fact that you permanently deleted information from your phone and its backups in anticipation that my investigators would seek to search your phone,” Manfred wrote to Luhnow. “You did not tell my investigators that you had done this until they confronted you about it in your second interview. While you explained that you were simply deleting sensitive personal photographs, I have no way to confirm that you did not delete incriminating evidence.”
Suspiciously, “According to people with knowledge of the league’s investigation, the GM of the Astros had wiped every back-up from his phone, besides one, and other data was missing as well.”
For his part, Luhnow claims anything he deleted was personal information, not work related.
This scandal just keeps getting more interesting, years after the initial reports broke.
While Luhnow has repeatedly denied that he knew about the trash can banging and video sign stealing, it strains credulity to think that he wouldn’t know about something that was so blatantly obvious.
Carlos Beltran admitted it, many other Astros have admitted it, but Luhnow seems to be unrepentant about his role in one of the most embarrassing scandals in recent baseball history.
It also makes Rob Manfred’s decision to let the players off lightly seem even more egregious.
If the baseball operations leader is deleting data from his phone, it implies an even deeper conspiracy than has already been reported. And yet the team gets to continue celebrating its World Series title and the players never faced any significant punishment.
At the very least, Luhnow appears to be out of baseball and into soccer team investing instead.