Jeff Luhnow

From BR Bullpen

Biographical Information[edit]

Jeff Luhnow became General Manager of the Houston Astros in 2011.

He joined the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003 and helped them open their baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. He became the Scouting Director in 2005, later rising to the level of Vice-President with responsibilities for the amateur draft and player development, including a particular focus on Latin America. On December 7, 2011, he was hired by the Houston Astros to be their new General Manager, replacing interim GM Dave Gottfried, who had himself replaced the fired Ed Wade only a week earlier.

Luhnow was born and raised in Mexico, something which was an asset when focusing on player development in Latin America for the Cardinals. When hired by the Astros, he was given a clear mandate by President George Postolos to improve the team's performance in that area. When he was named to the position, the Astros had just completed the worst season in team history and he received a mandate to break up the team and start over from scratch in anticipation of the team's move to the American League in 2013. Getting rid of all experienced players with trading value and piling up prospects, the Astros set a new franchise record for losses in 2012. Luhnow hired Bo Porter to be the team's manager starting in 2013, with the plan that he would bring the youngsters now making the team into a coherent whole. It did not work at first, as the Astros set a new franchise record for losses for the third straight year, but the turnaround began in 2014, as the Astros were no longer a laughingstock. They passed the previous year's number of wins in mid-August and were out of the AL West cellar, with a number of young players starting to emerge as as stars, but on September 1st, Luhnow fired both Porter and bench coach Dave Trembley, naming Tom Lawless as interim manager.

The double firing was seen as the result of a power struggle within the organization. Luhnow had faced a lot of criticism for the little initial return on the team's three consecutive first overall picks in the amateur draft: Carlos Correa, the 2012­ top selection, was out for the season with an injury; 2013's Mark Appel had struggled very badly in Class A, and the top choice in 2014, Brady Aiken did not even sign with Houston in a move that made the Astros miss out on two other top draft picks who went unsigned as a result. Luhnow was blamed for mishandling the negotiations, and also for a leak of some of his computer notes that revealed details of trade talks that embarrassed a number of his colleague GMs, who had not wished their private conversations to ever become public. With the Astros playing better than they had in years, Porter was on the ascendancy and Luhnow apparently gave upper management an ultimatum: he needed full reign to continue the plan he had begun to put in place when he was hired, and that included getting rid of the increasingly uncooperative Porter. He won that struggle, although critics were wondering whether the Astros had bet on the correct horse.

Whatever critics there might have been at the end of 2014, the were quickly dismissed when his choice for the team's new manager, A.J. Hinch, was widely seen as a good one. The Astros then got off to an excellent start in 2015 and the previous year's unpleasantness was forgotten. The arrival in Houston of more members of the team's haul of top-rank prospects, particularly SS Correa and P Lance McCullers put the focus back on the fact that the team had young talent in abundance, an impression that was further encouraged by the team's central role in the 2015 amateur draft. Holding two of the top five picks because of Aiken's failure to draft, as well as a supplemental 1st round pick and one of the top picks of the second round, the Astros went all out, picking three of the seven top-ranked players in the draft in SS Alex Bregman, OF Kyle Tucker (brother of their own Preston Tucker) and OF Daz Cameron.

With the Cardinals, Luhnow had built a state-of-the-art computerized player information system called "Redbird", that included everything from scouting reports to personal information on every player in the organization. When he moved to the Astros, he replicated this with a system called "Ground Control". On June 16, 2015, however, the Cardinals announced that at least one member of their front office was under investigation by the FBI for hacking into the Astros' system, apparently by using knowledge and passwords that had previously been used in St. Louis. A Cardinals employee was eventually fired for that misdeed and the Cardinals were docked some draft picks as punishment.

The Astros' rebuild found its ultimate success in 2017 when the team won its first-ever World Series, triumphing in seven games over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The haul of young players was now fully contributing, with Bregman and George Springer key cogs on the team, so that the few mis-shorts could be forgotten. The organization gained a reputation as the most advanced in the major leagues in terms of analytics, giving an edge in areas such as helping talented pitchers like McCullers, Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole achieve their full potential. They made agressive trades, such as the ones that brought in Cole and Justin Verlander, but also controversial ones, like acquiring disgraced Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna while he was serving a suspension for domestic violence. The Astros won division titles again in 2018 and 2019 and returned to the World Series the second year. At that time, the front office was wracked by scandal when Assistant GM Brandon Taubman made completely inappropriate remarks regarding Osuna aimed at a group of female reporters. Luhnow and his bosses completely mishandled the situation, accusing the reporter who broke the story of having fabricated it, before being forced to backtrack, apologize and fire Taubman in the face of a slew of corroborating witness reports. Luhnow and the organization were thoroughly panned in the media for its poor response.

More trouble followed the Astros' loss in seven games to the Washington Nationals in the World Series, as allegations surfaced that the Astros had put together a sophisticated system to steal their opponents' signs with the use of technology during the 2017 season. Major League Baseball launched an investigation, and on January 13, 2020 announced some drastic punishment, with both Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch being handed a one-year suspension, and the team being given a fine of $5 million. The Astros also had to forfeit their first and second-round picks in the next two amateur drafts. Almost immediately, team owner Jim Crane fired both Luhnow and Hinch. One year later, after Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora had landed new managerial jobs after serving their one-year suspensions, he stated that he had been made a scapegoat in the whole affair in a deal between Commissioner Rob Manfred and Crane, and sued the Astros in civil court for the salary for the remainder of his contract, worth $22 million.

Prior to his baseball career, he was General Manager and VP of Marketing for and founder of Archetype Solutions.

Preceded by
Dave Gottfried
Houston Astros General Manager
Succeeded by
James Click

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "Astros dismiss Hinch, Luhnow following findings",, January 13, 2020. [1]
  • Nancy Armour: "Opinion: Former Houston Astros execs sold out baseball, should never be near game again", USA Today, January 13, 2020. [2]
  • Scott Boeck: "Astros owner Jim Crane fires manager A.J. Hinch, GM Jeff Luhnow after MLB suspensions in cheating scandal", USA Today, January 13, 2020. [3]
  • Jace Evans: "Astros' sign-stealing scheme began with front office 'Codebreaker' program", USA Today, February 7, 2020. [4]
  • Gabe Lacques: "Former Astros GM's lawsuit claims firing part of deal to save team's World Series title", USA Today, November 9, 2020. [5]
  • Bob Nightengale: "FBI investigating Cardinals' alleged hacking of Astros' computer system", USA Today Sports, June 16, 2015. [6]
  • David Roth: "The Astros Are Not In The Apology Business", Deadspin, October 25, 2019. [7]

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