MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred apologizes for ‘disrespectful’ comment about World Series trophy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Under blistering criticism from players unhappy with his handling of the Astros electronic sign-stealing scandal, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred offered a qualified mea culpa Tuesday – but also pointed at the players’ own union as sharing the blame. 

Some players, most vociferously the Dodgers’ Justin Turner, have expressed outrage over Manfred referring to the World Series championship trophy as “a piece of metal’’ as he made the media rounds Sunday. Manfred was trying to explain MLB’s approach to the misdeeds perpetrated by the Astros, who were found to have used a video-based scheme in 2017 – the year they won the championship – and part of 2018.

Unprompted, the game’s top executive acknowledged his blunder when he addressed members of the media covering spring training in Arizona.

“In an effort to make a rhetorical point, I referred to the World Series trophy in a disrespectful way and I want to apologize for that,’’ Manfred said. “There’s no excuse for it. I made a mistake. I was trying to make a point but I should have made it in a more effective way.’’

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He was quite effective in conveying the message that the MLB Players Association hamstrung any efforts to penalize Astros players who participated in the electronic stratagem.

While Houston was fined $5 million and lost its first two draft picks in each of the next two years – as well as general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, who were suspended and subsequently fired – its players were not disciplined.

The level of anger expressed by their peers on other clubs even surprised Manfred, an MLB executive for more than 20 years who said the union declined to grant cooperation from the players unless they received blanket immunity. Manfred said his office initially offered immunity for only some, but the MLBPA would not budge.

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“One of the principal complaints seems to be that the Houston players were not disciplined,’’ Manfred said, “and that lack of discipline and immunity was negotiated with the union that represents the players.’’

Union head Tony Clark had a different take on the punishment issue, saying MLB never expressed any intention to discipline the players, and didn’t have the right to do so anyway because the players had not been notified of the rules and because in previous instances of electronic sign-stealing the league had said it was up to teams to ensure compliance.  

“Any suggestion that the Association failed to cooperate with the Commissioner’s investigation, obstructed the investigation, or otherwise took positions which led to a stalemate in the investigation is completely untrue,” Clark said in a statement. “We acted to protect the rights of our members, as is our obligation under the law.” 

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