xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred defends punishment for Astros sign-stealing, talks Orioles’ future, MASN dispute

NORTH PORT, FLA. — Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred continued to defend his handling of the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal during a news conference on Sunday at Major League Baseball’s Spring Training Media Day.

The event at the Atlanta Braves’ brand-new spring training complex was also intended to provide media access to managers and general managers from all the Grapefruit League clubs, but the main event was the question-and-answer session with Manfred, who spent much of it explaining the reason he granted immunity to the players involved in the scheme.

Advertisement

Manfred, who has faced criticism for granting immunity to players involved, strongly countered the notion that anyone would escape punishment for taking part in the scandal that sullied the 2017 World Series and led to the firing of Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, as well as the dismissal of Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora and incoming New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran.

“I’m more than prepared to tolerate and listen to the debate and criticism about whether or not the punishments that have been levied in this case are sufficient," Manfred said, “but the one thing that I do take issue with is the notion that anybody in the Houston organization escaped without punishment. I think if you look at the faces of the Houston players, as they’ve been out there publicly addressing this issue, they have been hurt by this. They will live with questions about what went on in 2017 and 2018 for the rest of their lives, and frankly it’s rare that for any offense you have a punishment that you will live with for the rest of your life.”

Advertisement

The most important thing, Manfred explained, was to bring together all the facts and put them in front of the public.

“Our desire to find the facts, to figure out what really went on, drove a lot of the decisions that we made in the investigative process," he said. “People had a right to know what happened and we did achieve that goal.”

The commissioner also predicted that the MLB investigation of sign-stealing allegations against the Red Sox will be concluded and a decision released by the end of the month.

In the wake of the social-media buzz created by players on other teams hinting at on-field reprisals against the Astros, Manfred made it clear that anything of the kind will be dealt with elicit strong discipline.

“I hope that I made it extremely clear to them that retaliation in-game by throwing at a batter intentionally will not be tolerated, whether it’s Houston or anybody else,” Manfred said. “It’s dangerous and it is not helpful to the current situation.”

Manfred addresses Orioles’ future, MASN dispute

Manfred also addressed several other issues facing the game, including the progress of the on-going MASN dispute between the Orioles and Washington Nationals and the future of an Orioles franchise that could be facing another steep attendance decline this season.

The Orioles drew 1,307,807 fans in 2019, their fewest in 28 seasons at Camden Yards, marking the fifth straight year of declining attendance. The Orioles’ average attendance of 16,146 per home game ranked third worst in baseball, behind the Tampa Bay Rays (14,552) and Miami Marlins (10,016).

“I have spent a considerable amount of time with the Angelos family during this offseason," he said. “I think the family is committed to making baseball as good as it can possibly be in Baltimore. I think they’re excited about [executive vice president/general manager] Mike Elias and his team and their ability to make the franchise as competitive as possible, so I’m not quite as pessimistic as far as attendance in Baltimore. I think there is a good future for baseball in Baltimore."

The seven-year-old dispute with the neighboring Nationals concerns fees and profits from the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which is majority-owned by the Orioles but broadcasts both teams’ games.

In September 2019, the clubs were about $30 million apart in their latest disagreement: how large an award the Nationals should reap from the Aug. 22 decision by New York Supreme Court Justice Joel M. Cohen.

“In terms of the MASN dispute, there’s an RSDC [Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee] ruling. There’s a sum of money that is due and owing. There’s some legal issues surrounding those payments that need to be resolved and I’m hopeful that once those back payments get made, we’ll get into a regular process for setting rights fees for both clubs and moving forward in a more business-like way.”

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement