Astros: Reaction to Hinch interview, WSJ codebreaker report

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 27: AJ Hinch #14 of the Houston Astros returns to the dugout after a mound visit against the Washington Nationals during the seventh inning in Game Five of the 2019 World Series at Nationals Park on October 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 27: AJ Hinch #14 of the Houston Astros returns to the dugout after a mound visit against the Washington Nationals during the seventh inning in Game Five of the 2019 World Series at Nationals Park on October 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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Astros Winter Meetings
HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 17: President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Jeff Luhnow addresses the media prior to the Game Four of the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

The Wall Street Journal Report

The Wall Street Journal published a report detailing the origins of the team’s sign stealing scheme and former GM Jeff Luhnow’s purported knowledge of it. You’ll need a subscription to read the story, so of course I bought one just for the sake of reading it. Well played, WSJ.

The story details that the sign stealing scheme actually originated in the front office, rather than among the players and bench coach Alex Cora. An intern devised an algorithm named “Codebreaker” to decipher teams’ signs in real time and showed it to Luhnow in Sept. 2016.

Codebreaker was purportedly used throughout the sign stealing operation in 2017 and 2018, and it was also used on the road in addition to home games. This information was relayed in a letter from Commissioner Rob Manfred to Luhnow in early January 2020, less than two weeks before the commissioner’s report was released.

In essence, Manfred was able to conclude that Luhnow knew or should have known that the Astros were conducting the sign stealing operation. But he was never able to definitively prove that Luhnow was involved or had intimate knowledge of the system or how Codebreaker was utilized.

The team’s Director of Advance Information, Tom Koch-Weser, provided information to investigators that Luhnow had received several emails regarding the scheme and that the two had discussed it in person. He indicated that not only did Luhnow know about it, but that he supported it and even entered the video room during road games.

Other Astros employees also indicated Luhnow knew of and/or supported the operation but could not provide any proof. For his part, Luhnow simply denied Koch-Weser’s account and denied having completely read the emails. It’s basically a he-said-she-said situation, which is why the commissioner’s investigation could not definitively prove Luhnow’s participation.

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