Weeks ago, Major League Baseball levied serious punishment against the Astros as a result of their sign-stealing scheme. The league suspended GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for a year apiece (they’ve since been fired), took away first- and second-round draft picks in each of the next two years and fined the franchise the maximum amount of $5MM. MLB did not drop the hammer on any Astros players, however, even though many were instrumental in the scandal.
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Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke about the lack of discipline for Houston’s players this past weekend. Manfred argued that the players weren’t properly informed of the rules, so had the league come down on them, it likely would have led to “grievances and grievances that we were going to lose.” Indeed, as Evan Drellich of The Athletic explained this week (subscription required), MLB wouldn’t really have had a leg to stand on from a legal standpoint. With that in mind, Manfred & Co. decided to unleash their wrath only on the Astros organization and their higher-ups. Nevertheless, the MLBPA made clear Tuesday that it has fully cooperated with the league in regards to Houston’s misdeeds.
As part of a lengthy statement (all of which is available here via Drellich), the union said:
“The day after The Athletic published its Nov. 12 article, Major League Baseball informed the Players Association it would be conducting an investigation, and that it would want to interview players as a part of that investigation. MLB said from the outset that it was not its intention to discipline players. This was not surprising because the applicable rules did not allow for player discipline, because even if they did players were never notified of the rules to begin with, and because in past cases involving electronic sign stealing MLB had stated that Club personnel were responsible for ensuring compliance with the rules.
Against this backdrop, the Association on Nov. 13 sought and received confirmation from the league that the players interviewed and any other players would not be disciplined in connection with the allegations made in the article. We received that confirmation promptly on the evening of Nov. 13, and the player interviews began days later.
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. We acted to protect the rights of our members, as is our obligation under the law.”
The union added that it and the league have recently engaged in “regular dialogue on potential rule changes affecting sign stealing, in-game technology and video, data access and usage, Club audits and disclosures, player education and enforcement – including the potential for player discipline.” According to the MLBPA, “no issue is off the table, including player discipline,” and the way “the parties handle the next several weeks will significantly affect what our game looks like for the next several decades.”
The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire after the 2021 season. Therefore, how the league deals with the Astros’ crimes going forward could ultimately factor into whether a work stoppage takes place in the near future.