Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred defended his punishment of the Houston Astros for their sign stealing in 2017 and said Major League Baseball will institute new rules to police the use of technology before the 2020 season.
In a wide-ranging interview with ESPN’s Karl Ravech, Manfred explained why he didn’t punish any Astros players for their roles in the scandal, which involved illegal use of technology to decipher their opponents’ signs and relay them to Houston batters in real time.
MLB announced its discipline of the Astros last month, suspending general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch for the entire 2020 season while stripping the organization of four draft picks and levying a $5 million fine.
But none of Houston’s players was suspended or fined, and Manfred had previously announced that MLB had no plans to strip the Astros of the 2017 World Series title — decisions that have drawn widespread criticism from the baseball community, including players from other teams.
Manfred told Ravech that any discipline of the players likely would have resulted in grievances from the Major League Baseball Players Association, citing Luhnow’s failure to communicate to the Astros’ players the contents of a 2017 memorandum outlining MLB’s policy on the use of technology.
Manfred said that although he doesn’t absolve the players in Houston, he believes that Luhnow and Hinch were obligated to inform them of the memo and enforce MLB’s rules.
Manfred also said he understands the sport’s reaction to the scandal, especially after the Astros’ ill-received news conference Thursday, when owner Jim Crane made several comments that stoked the ire of players and officials from other teams.
When asked about MLB’s plans going forward, Manfred indicated that baseball would restrict access to video during games.