Watching Baseball Die: What is Rob Manfred Doing?

With spring training bringing in baseball for the year, very few baseball fans are focused on the season ahead. Instead, most of the focus is shifted towards the 2017 season, and possibly the biggest baseball scandal since the Black Sox in 1919. 

During the offseason the Houston Astros, who won the World Series in 2017, were caught using technology to intercept the catcher’s pitch signals, allowing the batter to know the pitch that’s being thrown to him. 

Baseball fans wanted blood, a hard crackdown on the Astros and their players. Commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t get the memo, and it doesn’t bode well for his career.

Rumors of the Astros sign stealing have been swirling the MLB the past few years, but the rumors began to elevate in early-November when reports surfaced alleging them of banging a trashcan in the dugout for off-speed pitches in 2017. Popular fans like Jomboy were amongst the first to bring exposure to the scandal by searching Astros games for trash can bangs.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and other MLB investigators stated they were conducting a “really really thorough investigation” into the scandal. “Any allegations that could affect the outcome of a game or games is the most serious matter,” Manfred elaborated.

Baseball is not a sport short of scandals. From the steroid use that plagued the sport in the 90s and early 00s, to the Pete Rose gambling incident and the Black Sox scandal, incidents like these have always been apart of baseball. Sign stealing had simply become the next chapter.

However, in order for the sport to move forward from these scandals the league had to crack down hard on its perpetrators…

especially when they exceed on the highest level, and win the World Series. Fans league-wide speculated player suspensions, bans from baseball, and possibly even having the World Series redacted.

Manfred did none of these things. Immediately after handing down the punishment, the league was in uproar over the lackluster consequences that the Astros faced. With accusations of other teams like the Red Sox and Yankees also being speculated as stealing signs using technology, many fans believed Manfred needed to set a precedent that this was not acceptable. Not a single player involved received a fine for their participation.

Astros batter Alex Bregman talking about taking place in the sign stealing scandal, answering every question asked with “the commissioner came out with a report, MLB did their report and the Astros did what they did.”

Unhappy with the commissioner’s findings, many fans from across the league continued looking into the sign stealing. Databases were built to analyze which Astros players were most and least responsible. Players most responsible included Alex Bregman, recently hired New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran, and World Series MVP George Springer.

However, what few considered as the scandal was unfolding was the impact it had on player’s careers league wide. In most major sports, players are united by their love for the game. By cheating, many Astros players betrayed their brothers, teammates, and friends. Mike Bolsinger launched a lawsuit suing the Astros for 31 million dollars, to be given to various LA charities.

Just a week after the commissioner report, Manfred also announced the possibility of a new playoff seeding, which would include bye weeks, four more teams, and a reality-TV style reveal where high seeded teams would pick their opponent. It was almost unanimously hated after being released, and further made baseball fans question Manfred’s role as commissioner.

As Spring Training has started to take shape, many players were given a chance to speak out on the sign stealing scandal and Rob Manfred.

Cody Bellinger, the reigning National League MVP, on the Astros responses to the sign stealing scandal.
Will Middlebrooks commenting on the MLB’s plea for players not to throw at the Astros.
Kris Bryant, former MVP and member of 2016 World Series-winning Chicago Cubs, being asked about the punishment the 2017 Astros players’ recieved.

And then Rob Manfred called the World Series championship a piece of metal.

This solidified Manfred’s disconnection from the sport in many players and fans eyes. For the commissioner to skimp out on punishment for the Astros whilst diminishing the value of the World Series championship, it made him seem unconcerned with the future of the sport. A sport that has suffered in recent years due to poor higher up decisions.

Justin Turner, a batter for the 2017 Dodgers who lost the World Series to the Astros, being asked about Manfred’s recent actions as commissioner.

While this story has been in development for a while, it seems to have no real end in sight. The lack of punishment and closure into whether the Astros continued cheating after 2017 has placed immense scrutiny on the MLB. Recently, there has been speculation into the Astros using buzzers this past postseason to relay signs instead of trash can bangs. The Astros have been greeted by press at every turn, which should continue well into the season if Manfred continues to withhold information.

Regarding the whole situation, Lebron James of all people summed it up fittingly.

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