Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred held a news conference on Sunday about the state of the sport and — surprise! — he had to answer a lot of questions about the Houston Astros cheating scandal.
Manfred opened the conference — which was not televised, despite being the first time the commissioner has spoken publicly about the scandal — with a short statement about both sign-stealing scandals. He said that the report about the Boston Red Sox cheating in 2018 should be completed by the end of next week, and then commented on the reaction to the Astros’ punishment. He doesn’t believe that any Astros employee or player escaped punishment, and thinks that the reaction from the public and from fans is the best punishment for the players.
Manfred takes issue with the notion that anyone in the Astros organization avoided punishment. Says faces of Astros players show "they have been hurt by this" and will be faced with questions of what happened in 17 and 18 for the "rest of their lives."— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) February 16, 2020
It’s not clear which players’ faces Manfred has been looking at, but it’s certainly not Carlos Correa’s. Correa didn’t seem sorry at all when he ripped Cody Bellinger for daring to share his opinion on the cheating scandal that may have denied him a World Series ring. Manfred didn’t punish any player in the scandal, and only punished two Astros employees (GM Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch). No other staffers have been publicly fired, despite the “Codebreaker” cheating program that two employees developed.
Manfred says that the employees who came up with Codebreaker were "junior" employees who were under player pressure and didn't have proper guidance from the field manager or GM, and that MLB "didn't know enough" about the Astros org to decide to punish them.— Nick Stellini (@StelliniTweets) February 16, 2020
Manfred said later in the conference that he believes that firing Luhnow, Hinch, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora was a harsh enough punishment to deter anyone from doing it again, but failed to explain why the firing of non-players would deter players from cheating again.
As for why the Astros were allowed to keep their 2017 World Series championship despite cheating throughout the season and during the playoffs, Manfred said that stripping them of the title was considered but eventually rejected because it had never been done before.
Manfred said he considered stripping the World Series title from the Astros and that the league office spent a lot of time discussing the possibility. Said the reasons they didn’t because of lack of precedent & that he wanted to let the public judge the facts of situation.— Joon Lee (@joonlee) February 16, 2020
Manfred also doesn’t approve of the lively dialogue that players have been having in the media and on social media.
Rob Manfred on players speaking out about the Astros cheating: "I'm sort of a civil discourse person. It must be because I'm old. But, yeah, I think that the back and forth that's gone on is not healthy."— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) February 16, 2020
Leave it to the commissioner of baseball to hate on the one truly interesting and positive thing to come out of this scandal: players showing personality. Does Manfred even like baseball?
Throughout the conference, Manfred seemed resentful that he had to answer so many questions about the illegal sign-stealing, somehow not grasping what a huge, huge deal it is to both players and fans.
"This has been fun, but I'd like to move on to other topics at some point." - Rob Manfred, giving a press conference in the middle of a firestorm caused by the biggest cheating scandal in the history of the sport after just a couple of questions.— Nick Stellini (@StelliniTweets) February 16, 2020
Manfred only got a few questions that weren’t related to the scandal. He got several about the Atlanta Braves’ continued use of the racially offensive tomahawk chop chant, both of which he refused to answer. He may be annoyed, but he better get used to it: the Astros cheating scandal isn’t going anywhere for a while.
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