Manfred: Astros' Penalty For Sign-Stealing Scandal Could Be Severe
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that he believes the "sign-stealing scandal that has engulfed the sport involves only" the Astros and that he can "mete out discipline beyond the standard fine and draft pick penalties if necessary," according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.com. Manfred yesterday called the allegations of technology-driven sign-stealing by the Astros "the most serious matter." He said it "relates to the integrity of the sport" and promised a "really, really thorough investigation." The maximum penalty Manfred has handed out during his tenure was a $2M fine to the Cardinals and loss of their first two draft picks in '17, after an employee "illicitly accessed the Astros' proprietary database." Meanwhile, sources said that discussion of the Astros is "expected to be a common topic at the owners meetings," which run through tomorrow (ESPN.com, 11/19). Manfred said he does not "have a firm timeline" for the Astros investigation to wrap up. Manfred: "It's really important that we be as thorough as possible. ... I certainly would hope that we would be done before we start playing baseball again." Asked what owners are saying about the situation, Manfred said, "It's hard to characterize 30 people. One obviously is in a different category but the other 29 I think share my concern. People want the game played consistently with our rules and feel that it's important that we figure out exactly what happened here" (Eric Prisbell, THE DAILY).
FACT-FINDING MISSION: In N.Y., Tyler Kepner notes MLB is said to be "well underway in its investigation" of the Astros, which it "plans to complete before the winter meetings begin in San Diego on Dec. 8." A source said that the league is "trying to determine not just the nature of any possibly infractions, but also who devised and ordered them." That would seem to put Astros President of Baseball Operations & GM Jeff Luhnow, manager A.J. Hinch and "other top officials at risk of suspension, depending on the findings" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/20). In Houston, Chandler Rome writes along with "pace of play concerns and proposed rule changes, the Astros' alleged malfeasance may shape the tenor of the owners' meetings this week." Astros Owner Jim Crane, his son Jared -- newly appointed to the franchise’s business operations team -- and outgoing President of Business Operations Reid Ryan are "scheduled to comprise the Astros’ contingent" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/20).
SHOW NO MERCY: In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel writes Manfred should tell the Astros if any of their "management, scouts, managers or coaches knew of their alleged electronic sign-stealing measures, they are banned and never will be allowed to work in MLB again." Fans are "numb to players and coaches cheating, but a sports league must rule with the power of Thor's hammer to discipline when one of its own franchises brazenly violates the rules." A pro sports league is "about entertainment, but the legitimacy of its product anchors around the perception that it is above some WWE-style script" (Ft. Worth STAR-TELEGRAM, 11/20). In Dallas, Evan Grant writes Manfred "probably needs to have some answers about the Astros thing soon" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 11/20). CBS Sports Radio's Brandon Tierney tweeted this is a "pivotal point in Manfred's legacy as Commissioner" (TWITTER.com, 11/19). MLB Network’s Tom Verducci said this is an opportunity for Manfred to "redefine what kind of game that we want," as there is "too much going on in the game today.” MLB Network’s Al Leiter said the punishment “has to go down hard” because the “teams have to know, ‘You better not mess around because we’re going to make this painful’” (“MLB Now,” MLB Network, 11/19).
WEIGHING IN: Former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent in a special to the WASHINGTON POST writes, "Sometimes the lessons of baseball mean drawing solid distinctions." MLB has a "long history of skulduggery." Vincent: "At what point, though, does trying to steal an advantage become cheating?" If the Astros "used video for sign-stealing," justice "should be meted out" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/20).