MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has to go
After slapping a couple of wrists in the sign-stealing fiasco that helped win a World Series, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball returned to his obsession with such weighty issues as pace of play and the number of minor league teams.
That commissioner, Rob Manfred, started his career as an assistant to Bud Selig, and both of them presided over the steroid era of juiced players (as opposed to the more current juiced balls). Manfred’s weak response to the Houston Astros’ calculated and organized cheating should be the final straw that costs him his job as well as his $11 million salary.
In an article in The Athletic, Mike Fiers, who now pitches for the Oakland Athletics, first revealed the Astros’ organized and concerted efforts to steal catchers’ signs. Attempting to steal signs has been part of the sport for decades, but Houston’s effort went far beyond a guy on second trying to signal to the batter. After all, if the batter knows which pitch is coming, he’ll be ready for it.
The ensuing investigation revealed that the Astros’ batters had the advantage of a video feed from a center field camera relayed to players through whistling, yelling, clapping, and even banging a trash can. No wonder, the team’s batting line in the 2017 postseason at home went from .273/.343/.519/.862 to .208/.284/.347/.632 on the road.
MLB released the report detailing the Astros’ illegal system on January 13, fined the team a measly $5 million, eliminated the team’s first-round draft picks for this year and next, and suspended manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. The Astros owner, Jim Crane, fired both that day.
In the meantime, the trophy stays in Houston. Moreover, the league did not discipline any players or take back the extra $400,000 paid to recipients of full shares. Crane actually claimed that the sign-stealing did not impact the game but quickly backtracked, saying he didn’t say what he said. In the meantime, players Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman mumbled through brief half apologies.
Those of us watching at home during the playoffs in 2017, celebrated the acquisition of pitcher Justin Verlander as the move that put the Astros over the top. Pitcher Dillon Gee would beg to differ. Shortly after facing the Astros in June that year and getting roughed up, the Texas Rangers (his third organization) showed him the door.
Other pitchers have also been adversely affected by the scheme. Former Blue Jays pitcher Mike Bolsinger has not had a job since he faced the Astros in August 2017. He recently filed a lawsuit seeking to relieve the Astros of their ill-gotten gains estimated at about $31 million in bonuses, money which would be rerouted not to his pocket but to programs helping children in the Los Angeles area as well as retired players.
The reigning National League Most Valuable Player Cody Bellinger also had harsh words for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ opponents in the 2017 World Series, which he shared through ESPN: “I thought Jim Crane’s (apology) was weak, giving (the players) immunity. Those guys were cheating for three years. I think people don’t realize (Jose) Altuve stole an MVP from (Aaron) Judge in 017. Everyone knows they stole a ring from us.”
Players like Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs argue that the sign-stealing scheme hurt the sport far more than steroid use ever did. Entire teams did not use PEDs, and no teams actively encouraged juicing. Pete Rose, who has been banished from baseball, asked to be reinstated, emphasizing that he never tainted the game itself as he only bet on his own team to win.
In the meantime, Manfred has moved on to what he apparently considers more important issues, such as pace of play, his obsession during his tenure as commissioner. So far, he’s reduced mound visits and instated a three-batter minimum for each pitcher (thereby putting lefty specialists out of work). Many more minor league players will be affected by his growing interest in eliminating as many as 42 teams, as will the towns and fans of contracted teams.
Manfred has also floated a proposed change in the playoff format, perhaps hoping it will provide a distraction from a cheating scandal that brings into question at least one World Series championship. According to this proposal, seven teams in each league would advance to the postseason. Division winners would actually select their opponents, live, on television – sort of like a game show.
Jason Foster of sportingnews.com reacted accordingly, “With every new and nutty proposal to change Major League Baseball, I inevitably reach the same conclusion: Rob Manfred sure seems to find baseball in its traditional sense absolutely abhorrent.”
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer, never one to shy away from expressing his opinion, responded that Manfred’s “proposal is absurd for too many reasons to type on twitter and proves you (Manfred) have absolutely no clue about baseball.”
Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius also spoke for fans of the grand old game as well as players by asking. “Why are we changing this loveable sport so much” on Twitter.
Major League Baseball should be run by a man or a woman who loves the game. It’s past time for Major League Baseball to replace the current commissioner with just such a person.
Baseball has been a part of Diane’s life since her father played professionally (mostly at the minor league level). She has written for a number of publications and concentrated on companion animal welfare. She welcomes the opportunity to write about the sport she loves. Diane shares her home with her husband and a house full of rescued animals.
Let’s get real:
1) First, let’s really get to the bottom of this. There is no way we know all there is to know about this scandal. People are going to stay angry if MLB keeps trying to whitewash things.
2) Strip them of the WS title.
3) Suspend the players, starting with Altuve and Bregman.
4) And ban the ring leaders. Beltran and Cora should have no place in the game.
5) Rescind any awards the players may have won during these 3 years, starting with Buzzer-boy Altuve.
6) Have every player on the 2017 team return their WS share. Use the funds to increase minor league salaries to a livable level for the players.
7) Ban the owner, Jim Crane. Lost in all this has been that all these people worked for him, he set the organizational tone. No one should believe that he had no idea of what was going on. Banning him from any role, even up to forcing him to sell the team, would send the message that this garbage will not be tolerated, that rich scumbags have no place in our game.
You are going to be sorely disappointed as Manfred and MLB won’t even contemplate any of these consequences. Unfortunately, the players union is part of the problem. The union, in particular, is in the tough position of supporting both the cheaters and the victims of cheating.
I especially like #6, returning WS share and using it to increase minor league salaries, which are a disgrace.
If Manfred sticks to his weak response, I think most fans will be turned off, the last thing a sport losing followers needs.
Thanks for the suggestions. Just reading them made me feel a little better…
He set precedents when he handed down the disciplinary actions that he did. The fine is less than the luxury tax fine! The players had no consequences whatsoever. I guess the HoF voters can further dis piling them if they desire. The GM and manager were at least suspended without pay.
I agree that you should not punish players in a fashion that hurts their new teams. The new teams did nothing wrong. I would suggest that each player return their WS shares. I would additionally fine each player 10% of the salaries they made that year. Whether it was ML minimum or a 27M salary, it means something. I would strip the players of their rings and trophies (MVP, etc) and strip the team of their trophy and title. I would eliminate their names from anywhere as champions. I would replace that designation with an asterisk and *championship stripped due to team cheating.
This commissioner is not doing what’s in the best interests of baseball. There is likely a clause in his contract that allows for his removal through an ownership vote that would dismiss him without pay. He’d understand his shortcomings and we’d then know how the ownership feels about the scandal, his leadership, and his vision for the game. If it’s an open vote, we’d learn a great deal about each owner as well.
I appreciate your comments and note that I didn’t even mention that the fine is less than a luxury tax penalty. The fact that the players involved in the scheme get away with it makes it that much worse and hardly acts as a deterrent.
Your suggestions of consequences for the players and the organization make sense but will never happen.
Couldn’t agree more that “this commissioner is not doing what’s in the best interest of baseball.”
I like some of his ideas such as: more teams able to get into the playoffs. The 3 game playoff, but should consider reducing the 162 game regular season. Let’s not physically hurt more players (especially pitchers), I would prefer 1-1-1 home away format for the fans especially, I don’t like the idea of a bye, but it may only make the most sense. I think with a chance for the playoffs, we will see less teams tanking, I also liked the harder trade clause date, it’s time for the partial robo umps. I think he should have hit all the Astros players with a loss of World Series monies, at this point suspension would hurt too many other teams, and any new players that have signed with the Astros. Though I may go along with at least a one year suspension from post season play. I read somewhere that on the Astros only 10 core players remain from the 2017 team.
Rose: if Rose truely wants to be reinstated then the all the “hidden” information should be exposed and let the Hall of Fame voters vote knowing how bad his actions were!
Thanks for your thoughts ERLking,
If MLB does decide to add more teams to the playoffs, the regular season should be reduced so they’re not playing into November. But the playoffs shouldn’t be so diluted that they become a joke.
As far as tanking, I’m not sure that this is the solution to that problem.
As for the players who participated in the scheme, stripping them of World Series bonuses would at least send a message.
The bottom line though is that the 2017 World Series will forever be tainted.
The Keystone cops meet Inspector Clouseau.
You got that right, LB!
Every day this thing gets worse and worse.
A cheating scandal that possibly/likely turns the outcome of the World Series? That’s huge, yet Manfred bungled this and made it even worse! Some of the Astros, of course, are doing their part in escalating the damage.
It’s always great to get your input. I agree that “every day this thing gets worse and worse.” To add insult to injury, Manfred completely dropped the ball. Now the situation is out of control.
I have long suspected that Manfred doesn’t even like baseball. MLB needs a new commissioner with a passion for the game–and a spine.