Last Monday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred sat down with Karl Ravech of ESPN to discuss the punishment of the cheating Houston Astros. It has been brought to light thanks to former Houston Astros’ pitcher Mike Friers that the team had used electronics to steal signs during their 2017 World Series run. As a result, Manfred suspended team ExecutiveJeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for the 2020 season, stripped their first and second-round picks for the next two years, and fined the ball club $5 million.
Following the punishment, both Luhnow and Hinch have been fired as well as Red Sox manager Alex Cora and Mets manager Carlos Beltran for their connection to the 2017 team. Though being a player-run operation, none of the players involved will receive a suspension or penalty due to Manfred granting them immunity during the investigation. In regards to none of the players receiving punishment, Manfred explained to ESPN, “I think if you watch the players, watch their faces when they have to deal with this issue publicly, they have paid a price.”
Manfred granted the players immunity to gain as much information as possible while not stepping on the toes of the MLBPA. Still, embarrassment and public humiliation are not adequate punishment for the crime. Not only do the players involved get away scot-free, but the team still retains the title of the 2017 World Series Champions.
When asked why he did not strip them of the title, he stated, “It has never happened in baseball. I am a believer in the idea that precedent happens, and when you deviate from that, you have to have a very good reason.” He continues, “The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act.” To make matters worse, the Astros’ apologies were subpar, never truly accepting responsibility. Astros owner Jim Crane stated that the scandal “didn’t impact the game” and continued by
saying, “We had a good team…We won the World Series, and we’ll leave it at that”.
The Actions of both the Astros and Manfred have caused many of the league’s biggest names to express their feelings to the media such as Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, and most notably last year’s National Leauge MVP Cody Bellinger. Bellinger said in an interview with ESPN, “I thought the apologies were whatever I thought Jim Crane’s was weak… I thought [Rob] Manfred’s punishment was weak, giving [the players] immunity. Those guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don’t realize is [José] Altuve stole an MVP from [Aaron] Judge in ‘17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us”.
Bellinger’s response perfectly reflects the feelings of both the players and fans. Manfred has wholly mishandled the treatment of the scandal and greatly embarrassed himself in the process. Not only did he devalue the World Series Trophy by calling it a piece of metal, which, if you didn’t know, was named the Commsionner’s trophy but has essentially allowed the Astros to cheat and get away with it. He stated that in order to deviate from precedent, you need a good reason but how much better of a reason do you need then using electronics to steal signs? As a batter, knowing what pitch is coming is like having the answers to a test.
They were hurting the integrity of the game and the pitchers who lost their jobs as a result. It may be too late to punish the players because of the immunity clause, but it’s not too late for Manfred to clean up his mess.
I’m not saying that he should award the trophy to the Dodgers or Yankees who have been directly affected by the scandal but to simply vacate it. Vacating the title would at least allow people to feel a little sense of retribution and bring everything at ease. As the league is set to announce the punishments of the 2018 World Series champion Red Sox who were also found cheating, we as a fanbase of America’s pastime have to just sit and wait, hoping that somehow Manfred will come to his senses and do what’s right.