MLB commissioner Rob Manfred spoke for the first time since doling out punishment to the Houston Astros for the organization’s role in sign stealing during the 2017 World Series. In a press conference on Sunday, Manfred addressed the contributing factors leading to his decision.

“When we began the investigation after we became aware of the Houston situation, we started with an important and fundamental goal,” Manfred said. “That was goal was to make sure that we found the facts, completed the investigation, found out what was going on, and put ourselves in position to be as transparent with our fans and other clubs. People had a right to know what happened and we achieved that goal.”

Manfred initially suspended manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for one year due to their role in the scheme and the Astros subsequently fired both shortly after Manfred’s decision. The team was also fined $5 million which is the highest amount allowed in the MLB Constitution and were also stripped of multiple draft picks.

Although these punishments were justified, fans and players of opposing teams questioned why Astros’ players faced zero punishment. “I understand people’s desire to have the players pay a price for what went on here,” Manfred said in an ESPN interview. “I think if you watch the players, watch their faces when they have to deal with this issue publicly, they have payed a price. To think that they’re skipping down the road into spring training happy, that’s just a mischaracterization of where we are.”

During the interview, Manfred later added, “Independent of what the GM did, the manager did, (the players) have an obligation to play by the rules and they didn’t do it. I understand when people say the players should’ve been punished. I understand why they feel that way … If I was in a world where I could’ve found all the facts without granting immunity, I would’ve done that.”

In essence, Manfred claims the players are being punished enough by having to deal with public embarrassment.

“I believed that the most fundamental obligation was to get the facts, put them out there, and let people make their own judgment,” Manfred said. “If you look at the face of the Houston players as they’ve been out there publicly addressing the situation, they’ve been hurt by this.”

When addressing the claims that Astros’ second baseman Jose Altuve wore a buzzer or a certain device under his jersey to detect what pitches were coming, Manfred replied, “You’re never 100 percent sure in any of these things, but these were my best judgments.We were aware of the (Altuve video) well before we commenced the investigation. It was in fact part of the investigation. Here’s where I came down on it: the players were candid about 2017 and the fact they violated the rules in 2017. They were candid and consistent that the rules were violated in 2018. They were equally consistently in their denials about this buzzer situation. I think in my own mind, it was hard for me to figure out why they would tell us — given that they were immune — why they would be truthful and admit they did the wrong thing and ’17, admit they did the wrong thing in ’18, and then lie about what was going on in ’19.”

The Red Sox are also awaiting punishment for their involvement with sign stealing during the 2018 World Series. Manfred says he expects the investigation will conclude by the end of next week, according to CBS Sports.

 

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