Some may have scandal fatigue, but there are good reasons this one isn’t dying a quick death: the high level of anger from rival players and a still-running string of questionable statements and (non-)actions from those in positions of power. Today’s comments from two prominent, respected players — Mike Trout and Justin Turner — served to highlight those points and ensure we’ll see further rounds in this controversy.
Trout, the best player the game has seen in quite some time, is reserved to the point that he was once publicly chastised by commissioner Rob Manfred for not making himself marketable. How’d he respond to Manfred? “Everything is cool between the commissioner and myself.” Suffice to say he’s not easily ruffled.
It was rather remarkable, then, to see Trout unleash some venom in comments to reporters regarding the Astros’ sign-stealing escapades. As Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register was among those to cover, Trout said not only that he “lost some respect” for certain Astros players, but also that he did not “agree with the punishments” meted out by Manfred. In particular, Trout was not pleased that players were not punished for their misdeeds.
Trout’s comments stand out less for their content — we’ve heard similar sentiments from many others — than for the speaker. Many of the game’s other very best players have reacted similarly, but it’s rather different to hear those words come from Trout, who rarely expresses a public opinion on much of anything and seems destined not only for Cooperstown but a place on a very short list of the game’s greatest-ever players.
Then came Justin Turner, whose words stood out because they landed direct hits on Manfred. We’ve seen some other challenges to the commissioner — from Trevor Bauer, for instance — but Turner was responding especially to Manfred’s interview yesterday in which he attempted to defend his handling of the crisis. Lending added weight is the fact that Turner earned his veteran standing through years of grinding.
Turner directly contested several of Manfred’s points. The commissioner called himself “a precedent guy” in explaining why he didn’t want to strip a team of a title for the first time. Turner employed a tidy bit of legal jujutsu on that point, observing that this was a novel issue on which Manfred “just set the precedent” — “a weak precedent.” Similarly, Turner challenged Manfred’s explanation that he had prioritized ascertaining and publicizing the truth of the underlying matter. Per Turner, players are frustrated in large part because “the commissioner didn’t do a good job of revealing all the facts to us.”
The elbow drop was set up by Manfred’s ill-conceived characterization of the World Series trophy as “a piece of metal.” Per Turner: “For him to devalue [the trophy] the way he did yesterday just tells me how out of touch he is with the players in this game. At this point, the only thing devaluing that trophy is that it says ’Commissioner’ on it.”