MLB's Penalties To Astros Deemed "Historic," League's "Death Penalty"
MLB made an "enormous and historic statement" yesterday by suspending now-fired Astros manager A.J. Hinch and President of Baseball Operations & GM Jeff Luhnow without pay for the entire '20 season, docking the Astros first- and second round draft picks in '20 and '21 and fining the club $5M, according to John Shea of the S.F. CHRONICLE (1/14). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes yesterday was "one of the darkest days" in baseball history, as MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred "imposed the most severe penalties against a team since the Chicago Black Sox scandal in 1919" (1/14). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jared Diamond writes the full array of penalties levied against the Astros "far surpasses those stemming from any other recent baseball discipline" (1/14). SPORTSNET.ca's Shi Davidi wrote the penalties are "among the most severe in the game's long and at times sordid history." Davidi: "This is 1919 Chicago Black Sox and Pete Rose gambling territory" (SPORTSNET.ca, 1/13). In Boston, John Tomase wrote one "might have to journey back more than 30 years to SMU's football program receiving the death penalty to find an institutional punishment this harsh" (NBCSPORTSBOSTON.com, 1/13). CNBC's Brian Sullivan: "This is sort of the NCAA's version of the death penalty coming from Major League Baseball" ("Power Lunch," CNBC, 1/13). In DC, Thomas Boswell writes MLB "threw the book at the Astros," and if it had "thrown two or three more books, that would have been fine" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/14).
NO JOKE: THE RINGER's Michael Baumann wrote the penalties are "among the harshest Manfred has ever imposed, rivaled only" by his '17 decision to ban former Braves GM John Coppolella for life and declare 13 Braves prospects free agents after finding that Coppolella had violated international free agency rules by signing players as young as 14. The loss of draft picks, as well as full-year suspensions for Hinch and Luhnow, are "clear attempts to deter copycats" (THERINGER.com, 1/13). SI.com's Tom Verducci wrote Manfred's ruling is the "most severe action of his five-year term" (1/13). THE ATHLETIC's Rosenthal & Drellich wrote the decision is the "most dramatic ruling" of Manfred's time as commissioner (1/13). In N.Y., Bill Madden writes this was Manfred's "Kenesaw Mountain Landis moment in which he defended the integrity of the game," and he "more than lived up to it" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/14). In Cleveland, Paul Hoynes writes Manfred has "never been more emphatic in wielding the power of his office" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/14). FORBES' Barry Bloom: "Rob Manfred Made Right Call On Houston Astros Sanctions" (1/13).
HISTORIC DAY: In San Diego, Bryce Miller writes MLB delivered an "unmistakable hammer" blow to the Astros, as this decision "shakes baseball ... in a real and profound way." Manfred "deserves credit for doling out an emphatic, unequivocal message to everyone in the game" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/14). YAHOO SPORTS' Mike Oz wrote this was MLB "sending a strong statement about the integrity of the game and minding the commissioner's warnings" (1/13). Verducci said this is a "historic day" for MLB, because the sanctions usher in a "new age." The Athletic's Jayson Stark said, "We have seen incredible days in our time: biogenesis, the Mitchell Report, Pete Rose. This is a day that will be remembered with all of those" ("MLB Tonight," MLB Network, 1/13). In Boston, Christopher Gasper writes now there are "no more warning shots from Manfred." Gasper: "He's finally going to point baseball's competitive-integrity compass in the right direction" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/14). SNY's Marc Malusis said to give MLB credit for being "heavy-handed" ("Loud Mouths," SNY, 1/13).
CRIME & PUNISHMENT: In Dallas, Kevin Sherrington writes Manfred "got it right Monday, sending shivers through his kingdom in the process" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/14). In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes an argument for an even more severe punishment "could be made." Sherman: "Lifelong bans. Player punishments. Greater draft penalties. Larger fines." The penalties were "harsh enough to get across what Manfred wanted to deliver: That those who cross the line by using technology to cheat do so at the peril of losing their jobs and perhaps their right to ever participate" in MLB again (N.Y. POST, 1/14). In Toronto, Steve Simmons writes MLB's ruling is "precedent setting" and "shocking today, shocking tomorrow, shocking next month" (TORONTO SUN, 1/14). In L.A., Mark Whicker in a front-page piece writes Manfred "could have been far tougher" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/14).
WHAT ABOUT THE PLAYERS? In Phoenix, Kent Somers notes one "significant part" of the Astros "avoided punishment: the players." Manfred and others in MLB "apparently determined that was going to be either fruitless or maybe result in a witch hunt." Astros players have "received a free pass" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/14). In Tampa, John Romano writes it does not feel like the punishment was "enough." The message that filters down to the players is that they are "free to break the rules as long as they keep it hidden from the coaching staff" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/14). The GLOBE & MAIL's Cathal Kelly writes it "wasn't just that cheaters prospered in this instance," but that MLB also "let them off the hook." MLB "could suspend everyone who had an at-bat in a Houston uniform last season," or "could shut the entire Astros franchise down for a year or two" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/14). The Chicago Tribune's David Haugh: "There are a lot of players getting away with stuff today and I understand the strength of the players' union is why they don't want to go after the players" ("SportsTalkLive,"NBC Sports Chicago, 1/13). ESPN's Jorge Sedano also said the Astros "might have gotten off a little light" because no players were penalized ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 1/13).