The Astros would like to move on from the sign stealing scandal. It ain’t happening any time soon.
The negative reactions continue. Many prominent players have spoken out about stripping the team of their title and/or punishing the players. Athletes from other sports (notably Lebron James) have weighed in.
New Astros manager Dusty Baker verbalized an appeal to MLB to protect the players from retaliation. Meanwhile a sports book has set the over/under on Astros getting plunked at 83.5, indicating they don’t think that protection is coming.
The announcement of the Red Sox’ fate is still said to be imminent but has still not happened. The Astros wish it would and that the stir it causes pushes them into the background at least a little. If how spun up people got over Jose Altuve’s tattoo is any indication, they shouldn’t hold their breath.
Meanwhile, Rob Manfred cracked a bit and is also facing backlash. When attempting to explain his view that stripping the Astros’ title wouldn’t be worthwhile, he referred to the trophy as a piece of metal. Unsurprisingly folks got very offended. He’s since apologized. It’s rare that he loses his composure, but a gaffe like that can only be described as such. He can live it down, but he’d best not make a habit of such verbal missteps else the owners may feel compelled to take action.
Back to the punishment thing…I’ve mentioned before the players were given immunity during the investigation of the scandal in order to complete said investigation. If that immunity were retracted, it’s a certainty that there would be a grievance from the MLBPA on behalf of the Astros players and that the Astros players would likely win. The embarrassment and outrage over that would compound what MLB is already struggling with. Also, if MLB went back on a promise of immunity, who would ever cooperate with any MLB investigation ever again?
Further, the typical player punishment for on-field infractions tends to be in the 5-10 game range. Nobody who wants the players punished would be satisfied with that. However, more would set a new precedent, one that has not been negotiated with the union, and a likely catalyst also of a grievance that MLB just might lose.
Lastly, it should be remembered how this all began. In September 2017, the Red Sox had been caught using cell phones to relay decoded signs from the video rooms to players using Apple watches. Manfred sent a “knock it off” warning to all the teams…and it finished thusly: “Finally, each Club’s General Manager and Field Manager will be held accountable for ensuring that the rules outlined in this memorandum are followed by players and Club personnel.”. It was always going to be the GM and manager of any offending team that was going to take the fall. It was the GM’s and manager’s job to give notice to the players and police them as needed. Luhnow and Hinch did not do it, thus they got hammered, and deserved it. There was no notice to the players, and I’ve read multiple reports that, as a result, any attempt to punish the players would get overturned in a grievance hearing on that ground as well.