June 20, 2015


GM Luhnow at center of Cardinals-Astros hacking scandal (KRISTIE RIEKEN, Jun. 18, 2015, AP)

Luhnow in no way fits the traditional mold of a baseball front-office employee. He didn't play, coach or manage. He wrote a paper in school about how the Chicago Cubs might win the World Series, but that was years before he ever came close to working for a team.

He graduated from Pennsylvania with a dual bachelor's degree in economics and engineering before getting his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. Luhnow founded Archetype Solutions, a data analytics company, and was the company's president and chief operating officer before moving to baseball.

He was a general manager before joining the Cardinals, too, but it was far from any baseball diamond. It was with a discount company called Petstore.com.

Luhnow worked for several years at a global consulting firm, McKinsey, after leaving behind the world of dog bones and kitty litter before joining the Cardinals as vice president of baseball development in 2003. He kept busy in the Dominican Republic, rising quickly. When he was promoted to vice president of amateur scouting and player development in 2006, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote the following: "If you aren't familiar with Jeff Luhnow, then remember the name. Why? One day he'll be running the Cardinals."

That doesn't mean it was all smooth sailing in St. Louis with a manager at the time in Tony La Russa that was none too fond of the sabermetric approach that Luhnow so coveted.

But the divide created by the two different approaches didn't keep Luhnow from building a team at the same time he built his name in baseball circles. His 2009 draft was considered his best with the Cardinals and included Matt Carpenter, Shelby Miller and Matt Adams. That draft paid dividends for the Cardinals after he left, and 16 of the 25 players on the 2013 World Series roster, including Carpenter, Miller and Adams, were drafted when he was in charge of player development and scouting.

"He really had his own little department," Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said Thursday. "He did interface with the baseball ops people. It was a new initiative for the Cardinals. It was really a blank slate. We were starting from scratch ... to see if we couldn't be a leader in this field. It was looking at everything out there, it was not trying to emulate Oakland or maybe others were doing. At the very start we wanted to do it as a Cardinal model."

Jim Crane grew up in St. Louis and was a longtime fan of the Cardinals, who have 11 World Series titles. When he bought the Astros in November of 2011, his first big move was to fire general manager Ed Wade. The second? Lure Luhnow away from the Cardinals to be his GM.

Luhnow was in St. Louis when the team built a computer database called Redbird and where he first hired Sig Mejdal, a former NASA employee, as director of amateur draft analytics. Mejdal joined Luhnow in Houston in January of 2012 with the unique title of director of decision sciences, and the pair and the rest of the staff made the Houston version of Redbird and called it Ground Control.

Posted by at June 20, 2015 11:21 AM

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