A letter sent in January by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow sheds even more light on the Houston scandal that led baseball to steal signs.
In the previously unpublished letter, Luhnow, according to the Wall Street Journal, was made aware of an Excel-based application that was "programmed with an algorithm that can decrypt the characters of opponents" and is referred to as a "codebreaker".
The program recorded the signs of a catcher and the subsequent pitches in a table to determine what the signals meant. This information was passed on to the base runners, who in turn shared it with the hits. The Astros players got bold, watched the live feed on a monitor near the dugout and announced the arriving pitches to the batsmen using the now notorious method of tapping a trash can.
Luhnow admitted that he had been shown the program by a trainee in 2016 – which another Astros employee several times described in emails to the ex-GM as "our Dark Arts system for stealing signs". Luhnow claimed that he had not read these reports far enough below to see the tidbits indicating the fraud, and MLB was unable to show that he encouraged its use or even knew how to use it.
That didn't prevent Manfred from pointing a finger directly at him.
In his letter to Luhnow, Manfred wrote: "There is more than enough evidence to support the conclusion that you knew – and the overwhelming evidence that you should have known – that the Astros has a sign stealing program that violates the rules of MLB. "
Not long after, Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch was suspended from the league for a year, and hours later both were fired by the Astros.