Should the sign stealing scandal be the last straw for Rob Manfred?

Rob Manfred should be relieved of his duties as the Commissioner of the MLB. After seeing his interview on ESPN, it seems clear that the MLB completely mismanaged the Astros’ sign stealing scandal. Should this be the Commissioner’s last straw? Rob Manfred has now been the Commissioner of the MLB for five full years, and throughout his tenure, the league has steadily receded down the power rankings of major US sports leagues. While the NFL, NBA, NHL, and even MLS have grown exponentially over the past few years, MLB attendance has decreased in every year of Manfred’s tenure and World Series viewership has decreased every year since the 2016 World Series pitted two clubs against each other, the Cubs and the Indians, who collectively hadn’t won a title in over 175 years.

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images
“I understand” is a phrase that was uttered no less than 30 times in the 45-minute interview that Rob Manfred undertook with ESPN’s Karl Ravech, when talking about fans’ unhappiness over the Astros’ punishment. Hopefully he also “understands” why there are many MLB fans calling for his job, myself included. The job of Commissioner is meant to police the sport and to promote and improve on the game of baseball. Manfred has failed on all accounts in his five years, and this scandal should be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. 

The quote from his interview which stood out among the rest was Manfred stating, "the one thing I do take issue with is the notion anyone in the Houston organization escaped punishment... I think that you need to think about it the overall context in terms of what’s been done to people’s reputations. What they’re gonna have to answer questions about, arguably for the rest of their lives," which was said in response to 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger's questioning of the MLB not punishing the players involved. Essentially what Manfred is saying, is that we are the Astros' players punishment and we must never let the Astros forget what they did. I will have no problem doing that, but it still doesn't excuse the Commissioner from punishing exactly zero players in a player-driven cheating scandal.

Another questionable aspect of the ESPN interview, was Manfred not understanding why the scandal is still a major topic on the news. He said, “I do think that over time, people will come to understand the significance of the discipline that was imposed here. Do I wish that I could have figured out a way to do this that would have sparked less controversy publicly? Yes, I do. I don’t know what that is, sitting here right now. I was hopeful that the transparency in the decision would help us move on from that, and it’s taken longer to do that than I had expected.” This was scrutinized by fans all over for many reasons. The most significant, being that the MLB was not nearly as "transparent" as they claim to be. Manfred said that it took "intestinal fortitude" to divulge the information that they had on the Astros' sign stealing. However, just last week a letter from January from Manfred to Astros' GM at the time, Jeff Lunhow, was reported on which dove deeper into the Astros "dark arts" and even revealed the name of the scheme "Codebreaker." To this report, Manfred only had one very tongue-in-cheek response, which was directed at Jared Diamond of The Wall Street Journal, reporter of the findings in the letter. "You know, congratulations. You got a private letter that, you know, I sent to a club official. Nice reporting on your part."

Every minute that Manfred continued to interview with Ravech, he continued to say more dumb statements. Possibly his coup de gras, was referring to the World Series trophy, a trophy bearing his title on it, as a "piece of metal." I mean, seriously, dude? How clueless could you be? This was said in reference to fans wanting the Astros to be stripped of their 2017 title, and his quote was that he didn't think that "asking for a piece of metal back" would make a difference. If the Commissioner's Trophy is just a piece of metal, then the Commissioner is the empty aluminum can that you kick every day on your walk back from the bus: garbage.

The irony of the seemingly perfect timing for Manfred to go on ESPN and continue to highlight his mismanagement of the investigation was not lost. The irony was actually twofold, as the interview with ESPN was aired on the same weekend as the NBA All-Star Game. This season, the NBA All-Star Game received a rather successful facelift courtesy of the NBA’s commissioner, Adam Silver, who has shown to be the much more competent commissioner for his league. In addition to giving a great comparison to show Manfred’s ineptitude as Commissioner, this weekend also had a new sport scandal come out of the blue, which showed the MLB’s inability as an organization to punish its teams properly. On Saturday, UEFA announced that they would be punishing Manchester City, the two-time defending Premier League champions, by banning them from the Champions League for two seasons as well as fining the club $30 Million for violating its Financial Fair Play Policy. This punishment has received plenty of praise, especially when looked at comparing UEFA’s punishment of Man City to the MLB’s punishment of the Houston Astros. Even Buffalo Wild Wings has a take on the matter: 

The interview came after a litany of quotes from MLB players stating their disapproval of the MLB, the Astros players, and Manfred himself this past week as Spring Training started up throughout the league. In the words of the MLB’s very first Commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis when dealing with the 1919 Chicago “Black Sox” scandal, “If a jury of your peers finds you not guilty, I will reinstate you back into baseball.” Well, Mr. Commissioner, I think the jury has made their decision:

You know my opinion on the matter. Now I want to hear yours. Do you think that Rob Manfred has proven he should not be in charge of Major League Baseball? What punishments would you have given to the Houston Astros organization? Players? Would you rather hear these half-assed apologies, or get to know the real and full truth behind Codebreaker?

Article by: Nick Simonelli


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