- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 16, 2020

In an interview with ESPN, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred defended his decision not to punish any Houston Astros players following an investigation that determined the 2017 Astros used a system of live cameras and banging on trash cans to steal opposing pitchers’ signs.

“I understand peoples’ desire to have the players pay a price for what went on here,” Manfred said. “I think if you watch the players, watch their faces when they have to deal with this issue publicly, they have paid a price. To think they’re skipping down the road into spring training, happy, that’s just a mischaracterization of where we are.

“Having said that, the desire to have actual discipline imposed on them, I understand it and in a perfect world it would have happened,” he said. “We ended up where we ended up in pursuit of really, I think, the most important goal of getting the facts and getting them out there for people to know it.”

Former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch lost their jobs as fallout from MLB’s investigation, as did Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora — who organized the sign-stealing efforts, per baseball’s investigation —and Carlos Beltran, who played for the 2017 Astros and was hired as the New York Mets’ manager mere weeks before MLB’s findings came out.

Luhnow and Hinch are serving one-year suspensions, and the Astros were also fined $5 million and stripped of four draft picks. But no players faced any individual punishment, even though MLB’s investigation described the sign-stealing as a “player-driven” system.

Manfred pointed to a 2017 memo sent to all major league clubs outlining the dos and don’ts of using technology during games.

“It’s in my report. The memorandum went to the general manager, and then nothing was done from the GM down,” Manfred said. “So we knew if we had disciplined the players, in all likelihood we were going to have grievances and grievances that we were going to lose on the basis that we never properly informed them of the rules.”

Manfred said the idea of vacating Houston’s 2017 World Series title was “something that we talked about and analyzed extensively,” but ultimately decided against it.

“The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act,” Manfred said. “People will always know that something was different about the 2017 season, and whether we made that decision right or wrong, we undertook a thorough investigation, and had the intestinal fortitude to share the results of that investigation, even when those results were not very pretty.”

Manfred is scheduled to hold a press conference later Sunday.

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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