Ex-Astros GM details 'Codebreaker' scheme, pins blame on head scout in podcast


Former Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has previously denied his involvement and knowledge in the team’s sign-stealing scandal that led to his firing, and now he is specifically calling out a member of the organization as 2020 as the one responsible for “Codebreaker.”

In RADIO.COM and Cadence13’s latest edition of “The Edge: Houston Astros,” Luhnow pointed to the team’s head of advanced scouting department, Tom Koch-Weser, as the “central figure” in Astros’ sign-stealing and video-decoding system.

“I have accessed 22,000 texts sent or received from 2017 through 2019. Many of these openly discussing cheating and obvious violations,” Luhnow said. “It’s very clear who’s involved, and also very clear who’s not involved.”

Luhnow, who has referenced the texts before, spoke about one exchange in particular about an article on Major League Baseball investigating the Boston Red Sox for use of an Apple Watch.

“Tom forwarded article to others involved in the cheating and said ‘uh oh,’” Luhnow said. “A pretty clear indication they were aware this was a violation of what they were doing and an indication who was involved.”

Koch-Weser, who is currently in the Astros' directory as Director of Advance Information, was essentially in charge of replay and video in addition to advance scouting for the Astros beginning in the 2017 season. Luhnow said he became the point man for a scheme that ran parallel to the trash-can banging.

Astros staffers under him would crack signs at the video replay review stations, send text messages to coaches in the dugout, which was then signaled to a runner on second base who would tip off the batter to the next pitch – a system that worked both at home and on the road.

“To be honest, I was a little suspicious,” he said. “The advance scout crew wanted extra person on road for budget reasons. I don’t like sending extra people on road unless there is a real justification. They kept telling me they needed second person, there was a lot of work to be done.”

The commissioner’s report in January did not name Koch-Weser when it dug into this particular scheme, but a Wall Street Journal report the following month revealed that the team would use an excel-based algorithm to determine the catcher’s signs, which was dubbed “Codebreaker.”

Luhnow said that Koch-Weser assigned “codebreaker” duty each night starting in May of 2017, and it continued into the 2018 season with Koch-Weser allegedly going to great lengths to keep it in place.

“Tom had argued vociferously for moving the replay room down to tunnel,” Luhnow said. “By 2018, the replay room was in shouting distance of the dugout. They didn’t actually need to communicate text message anymore, they could just shout the sign.”

Luhnow said text messages also show how Koch-Weser had devised a way to evade MLB security, too.