Rob Manfred does not run the NCAA. This is not a case in which the commissioner can simply vacate the Astros title in 2017, or ban them from the postseason tournament, or take away scholarships.
But Manfred has the authority to monitor the game and has the responsibility to protect the integrity of his league, as much as possible in a sport in which everything, from the PEDs to the playing halls and baseball, has faced great suspicion in recent years.
Finally, on Monday, Manfred dropped the hammer. He did not kill the Astros with his tough disciplinary action, his list of talented cheats in the field remains intact, but he was able to give an example of Houston, and one scary enough that he should keep the online teams moving forward.
One-year (unpaid) suspensions for general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch drew everyone’s attention, along with the team’s first and second round recruitment selections this year and next and the fine of $ 5 million.
The $ 5 million fine is not going to bankrupt the Astros, but it was the maximum allowed by the MLB Constitution, so it could also throw that at the stake.
For those of you who thought Manfred was too lenient, we introduced the owner of the Astros, Jim Crane, who fired Luhnow and Hinch about an hour after the commissioner’s conviction was published.
Just like that, the Houston senior management team was deleted. Manfred held them responsible for the theft of high-tech signs after what he said were multiple warnings, and that was followed by the cleaning of the Crane house.
This was really the maximum punishment available to Manfred, who avoided disciplining the players despite their well-documented details of their bad actions. The commissioner obviously didn’t want to fight with the union for this, not when he could easily avoid blaming his superiors for not keeping them in line.
Luhnow issued a statement on Monday night saying he had no knowledge of the theft of poster theft and added that the “trash hit was driven and executed by the players.” . . the video decoding of the signs originated and was executed by lower level employees who work with the bank coach. ”
Even so, GM cannot hide behind ignorance, even if that is really what happened. As for Hinch, his role, as detailed in Manfred’s report, is almost comically inept. According to the investigation, Hinch “did not devise the blow scheme or participate in it” and, nevertheless, did not stop the deception or convey his disapproval. Manfred also included that Hinch “expressed much contrition” to both him and the researchers, but let’s be realistic here. Turning a blind eye to illicit activities that happen a few meters away practically makes it an accomplice.
Manfred did his homework, and the MLB Investigation Department interviewed 68 witnesses, including 23 current and former Astros players. They also reviewed “tens of thousands” of electronic evidence, from emails to photos and Slack conversations. The commissioner needed full transparency and, based on the evidence that emerged, Manfred was able to prosecute the Astros to the point that he should serve as a deterrent in the future.
However, there are loose ends and the possibility of more collateral damage. Manfred is now undergoing an investigation of the Red Sox signal theft operation of the 2018 season, with manager Alex Cora, the former Astros banking coach, positioned in the spotlight.
Cora is one of the stars of the Manfred Astros report and even gets his own headline in bold, along with Luhnow, Hinch and the disgraced former assistant to general manager Brandon Taubman (also suspended one year for harassment at the clubhouse last October of women journalists). Manfred links Cora with almost everything: the blows with the garbage, the bad behavior of the repetition and the revision, and he paints it like the ringleader.
According to what we witnessed on Monday, that’s bad news for Cora. If Hinch received a one-year suspension and then was fired simply for looking the other way, Cora has to be a goner in Boston, only two seasons at work, and after winning the World Series in his rookie year.
On the other hand, that ’18 trophy is now permanently stained, as are Cora, Hinch and Luhnow’s resumes. Not to mention all the players who benefited from the deception.
And before we forget, what about the new Mets manager, Carlos Beltrán? He was a key figure in the report, but was able to skate because he was a player of those Astros teams and was not in a position of authority (in Manfred’s eyes).
Beltran has already received a lot of unwanted attention for this, and it won’t get easier with the quick spring training. The fact that he is not suspended does not mean that Beltrán escapes with a clear conscience, and we will see how this affects his chances of the Hall of Fame in the future.
Manfred did what he had to do on Monday, but the work is not over yet. At least now everyone knows what business means.