Union Disputes MLB Version Of How Astros Investigation Played Out
MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark said that at the beginning of MLB's investigation into the Astros' sign-stealing, the league "initially indicated that it did not intend to punish" any players as a result of its findings, contradicting Commissioner Rob Manfred's claim earlier this week, according to Danielle Allentuck of the N.Y. TIMES. Clark said that MLB told the union on Nov. 13, the day after the Astros' cheating scheme was revealed in a report in The Athletic, that the league would "want to interview players as part of the investigation but that it had no intention of disciplining players." Clark: "The conversations started with their lack of interest in disciplining players and our legal obligations to accept that. ... Our role is not to discipline players." He added, "Any conversation about player discipline has to be very specific in respect to what is a violation and what isn't." Clark also said that players commenting on the Astros punishments should "remember the union defended the rights of every player, and that he was not going to apologize for doing so." Clark "expressed hope that the players could use their anger to fuel conversations about the future of the sport" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/20).
NOT MUCH OF A CHOICE: Mets RF and player rep Michael Conforto said that the MLBPA's protection "'puts the union in a difficult spot' when some union members are protected for action that harms others, like the Astros' cheating." He said, "But when MLB reaches out and says they're going to give these players immunity, that's what the union has to agree to. They would be liable if they didn't." Conforto also said that changing the "disciplinary procedure was discussed, but not at length" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/20). In Newark, Randy Miller writes the union "obviously" did not "reach out to opposing players before insisting Astros players would be immune before cooperating with MLB's investigation" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 2/20). MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal said the MLBPA "felt the commissioner was painting them as obstructionists in this procedure when, in fact, the rule was already in place." Immunity, in the union's view, was "just kind of icing on the cake" ("Hot Stove," MLB Network, 2/19).
UNIONIZED FRONT: Pirates P and player rep Jameson Taillon said players are "definitely angry" about the handling of the Astros' scandal. He added that he has "never seen so much talk between players -- from all teams -- to get ideas flowing" going into Spring Training MLBPA meetings. However, Taillon "wouldn't go so far as to say players have lost confidence" in Manfred (TRIBLIVE.com, 2/20). In Chicago, Rick Morrissey writes the reason players are "so upset about the scandal itself and Manfred's pale, sickly response to it" is that they "believe the Astros got away with baseball murder" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/20). A Springfield REPUBLICAN editorial states if there is a "silver lining to this cloud, it's that players are as outraged as the fans." Maybe "even more." Today's players are "enraged that their sport's character and championships have been compromised." That says that this generation "cares about its sport's integrity in ways the last generation did not exhibit" (Springfield REPUBLICAN, 2/20). In Pittsburgh, Joe Starkey writes the "rage is understandable, but what, exactly, do players expect Manfred to do when their own union has stood firmly behind the cheating Astros players?" Players might "want harsh punishments handed down," but "their own union stands directly in their way" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/20). FS1's Jason Whitlock: "You want to understand why cheating is baked into the culture of baseball? Because the game's players have too much power. They're impossible to discipline" ("Speak for Yourself," FS1, 2/19).
HOW MUCH PUNISHMENT IS ENOUGH? Rays Principal Owner Stu Sternberg, on whether the Astros were punished enough for their scandal, said the franchise has "suffered a good amount," and will be "living with this for years." He said, "That franchise is going to be feeling a dramatic amount of pain for a number of years, and any other franchise that is going to think about even contemplating the possibility of the idea of doing something like this is going to have to wear that stain and that stink, and I think that should be enough to be a deterrent" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/20). In Ft. Worth, Jeff Wilson writes MLB might "not have punished the Astros, but the Astros are being punished." They are being punished by "every MLB player who calls them cheats, by fans everywhere planning to give full-throated, blue-worded rebuttles when the Astros come to their town." Wilson: "Does anyone believe the Astros ... legitimately won the 2017 World Series and should be recognized as champions?" Those players are now the "black sheep of the MLB family," and the "crowning achievement of their careers has been tarnished forever" (Ft. Worth STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/20).
MAD AT MANFRED: In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy writes Manfred's "legacy-defining moment is here." He is "destined to be remembered as the commissioner who allowed sign-stealing and a tainted World Series on his watch." Shaughnessy: "Did you ever think you'd be longing for the good old days of commissioner Bud Selig?" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/20). SNY's Marc Malusis said it "would have been healthier" for MLB to have a "long-drawn-out investigation rather than the nonsense we're dealing with right now." Manfred should "stop getting in front of the microphone because he has been an unmitigated disaster in trying to handle this" ("Loud Mouths," SNY, 2/19). In Toronto, Gregor Chisholm writes Manfred "should not be let off the hook for the public relations' disaster he allowed to happen under his watch." Still, MLB and its players "must move forward" (TORONTO STAR, 2/20). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote it "seems Manfred never saw it coming." One "could say he didn't read the room well, but it is more likely he was never in the (locker) room to even read it" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/19). The Dallas Morning News' Tim Cowlishaw said every time Manfred "opens his mouth it just gets worse" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/19). The Athletic's Frank Isola said the entire situation is "getting much worse," as Manfred has "completely mishandled this" ("PTI," ESPN, 2/19). In Atlanta, Mark Bradley writes it is "possible to feel a tad sorry for Manfred, who's in far above his head." Bradley: "No commissioner ever -- not Kenesaw Mountain Landis, not Pete Rozelle, not David Stern -- could have handled this in a way that satisfied everyone" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 2/20).
MAKING THE MOST OF BAD SITUATION: MLB Net's Harold Reynolds said Manfred has "washed all the gray area out" with the investigation. Reynolds: "It's gone. These are the facts. This is where we're at. ... This is the best thing that's happening for the sport right now" ("Hot Stove," MLB Network, 2/19). CBSSN's Damon Amendolara said, "On the one hand, you like that a commissioner is out in front of this and addressing one of the biggest scandals the sport's history has ever seen. On the other hand, if you keep talking about this it stays in the news even longer and we just keep parsing your words." The "only win here for baseball is if the Astros do not win the World Series" ("Time to Schein," CBSSN, 2/19). ESPN's Jeff Passan said to see players' comments "come out with this vitriol as fast as it did, as steady as it did, really caught Rob Manfred off-guard and he's still trying to recover from it" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/19).