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Volume 26 No. 206
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Astros Punishment Gives Insight Into Manfred's Leadership Of MLB

Many outlets cited Manfred's discipline as a step towards restoring integrity across MLB
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Many outlets cited Manfred's discipline as a step towards restoring integrity across MLB
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Many outlets cited Manfred's discipline as a step towards restoring integrity across MLB
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's handling of the sign-stealing scandal -- the "biggest of his commissionership so far and one that cut to the heart of the game's integrity -- offered remarkable insight into how he runs the sport," according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.com. As much as MLB "played the big, bad monolith in delivering the ruinous news from on high, this was not some unilateral punishment for the Astros." It was a "sneak peek inside the sausage factory of power and the anger" that Astros Owner Jim Crane's "relative acquittal caused across the league." Multiple ownership-level sources said that "dissatisfaction with the penalties had emerged following a conference call with Manfred, in which he explained how the Astros would be disciplined, then told teams to keep their thoughts to themselves." One of those sources said, "The impression was that the penalty for complaining would be more than Houston got." One MLB team president said, "Crane won. The entire thing was programmed to protect the future of the franchise." Crane said that he "saw details of the league's punishment over the weekend." It allowed him to "introduce himself as a do-something organizational shepherd." He announced the firings of President of Baseball Operations & GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch on live TV, "generating maximum effect" (ESPN.com, 1/14). In San Antonio, Mike Finger notes MLB teams are "prohibited from commenting" on the penalties, but it is "unclear how Manfred could have appeased everyone" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 1/15).

MANFRED MAKES A STATEMENT: In Toronto, Doug Smith writes Manfred's decision on the Astros was "sports leadership at its very best." Smith: "Punitive, decisive, well thought out and [explained] and, really, rather swift" (TORONTO STAR, 1/15). MLB Network's Chris Russo said, "Let's give the commissioner a tremendous amount of credit. The whole world was watching this." Russo: "This was a big-league move by a big-time commissioner" ("High Heat," MLB Network, 1/14). TSN.ca's Steve Phillips writes MLB is in "very good hands." Manfred has "proven to be a man of his word." Cheating "compromises the integrity of the game." Manfred has "taken a huge step toward restoring that integrity" (TSN.ca, 1/15). A Springfield REPUBLICAN editorial states that Manfred "may or may not ever join" former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig in the Baseball HOF, but his "aggressive response to cheating stands in refreshing contrast to his predecessor, and bodes well for a sport with problems but a commissioner determined to keep it clean" (Springfield REPUBLICAN, 1/15). MLB Network's Tom Verducci said, "Whether you agree with the punishments or not -- too hard, too soft -- you have to agree that this is a well-written, very detailed document. The presentation here is thorough. There’s more transparency than I expected” ("Hot Stove," MLB Network, 1/14).

TAKING THE RIGHT APPROACH: In Boston, Chad Finn writes MLB officials "need this sign-stealing saga to go away, and they're doing it by making those involved go away" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/15). ESPN's Eduardo Perez said of Manfred, "He made sure that the message is clear to anyone in the front office, anyone in the field staff, that if any one of your players is going to try to do something, you are going to be held accountable” ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 1/15). Former MLBer Torii Hunter said, "This is how you get rid of it -- you have to get rid of the people who allowed this to happen" (L.A. TIMES, 1/15).

DID CRANE GET OFF EASY? The Houston Chronicle’s Brian Smith said he was "very surprised” that Crane was able to "basically walk scott-free" from the scandal despite the strong penalties for Luhnow and Hinch. The $5M fine to a billionaire like Crane is "pocket change," as he can "get that outside of the console on one of his cars.” Smith: “Jim Crane still owns the Astros. Jim Crane still has the brand. He’ll have a sold-out stadium this year. He still has the World Series title. ... I don’t think that this stings Jim Crane at all from a long-term perspective, especially from a business perspective” (“High Heat,” MLB Network, 1/14). ESPN's Scott Van Pelt echoed that the fine is "nothing if you're a billionaire," especially one that "owns a team that goes on a World Series run like the Houston Astros did." Van Pelt wonders if the penalties actually were as harsh as many believe them to be and said, “Crane’s fellow owners seem to believe that in the macro sense, not at all." Van Pelt: "The Astros won a title they get to keep along with all the revenue the run generated, and (Crane) gets to come in and appear noble when he adds to the year suspension and dismisses Luhnow and Hinch. Meanwhile, his team gets to wipe their hands and (he carries) on as the owner” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/15).