MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred Apologizes to Media for World Series Comments



Jacob Chaimovitch, Editor

On Tuesday evening, February 18th, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred officially apologized to the media for his comments on the World Series trophy, calling it ‘a piece of metal’ in a rhetorical jab at the Houston Astros and possibly stripping them of their 2017 World Series Championship amid the sign-stealing scandal. This is only the latest news in the Astros saga that has included fines, suspensions, an interesting over/under statline, and several furious media statements from big-name celebrities around the sports world.

To start, some background on the scandal. According to several theorists and a surveillance camera above center field that had footage intercepted, the 2017 Houston Astros had a zoomed-in view of the signs that catchers show to pitchers to tell them what pitch to throw and where. Then, a bench coach would bang on a nearby trash can to alert the batter of the pitch; two quick bangs in succession was a changeup, two bangs spread out was a cutter or a slider, one bang was a curveball, and no bangs was a fastball. These acts worked their way into September and the playoffs in October. They ended up winning the World Series. When it was discovered that the Astros cheated their way into a World Series win, Commissioner Rob Manfred dished out the punishments: suspension of GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for the 2020 season (both were fired the next day), stripping of their four highest draft picks, and a max fine of $5 million to the franchise. No punishment to the players or other members of the staff at all. In the grand scheme of things and according to the opinions of other athletes, a mere slap on the wrist.

In an attempt to settle the drama, Manfred called the World Series trophy a “piece of metal” in a try to bash its value amidst the scandal. He publically apologized, saying that “I have awarded six World Series titles during my tenure as commissioner and there is no greater feeling in the world”. However, he still was not safe from criticism in the form of a tweet from the King himself: LeBron James. He tweeted “listen here [Rob Manfred] listen to your players speaking about how disgusted, mad, hurt, broken, etc [they are] about this”.

Along with James, several baseball athletes were up in arms and outraged. New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton said that “I could have hit 80 homers [that season]” if he knew what pitches were coming his way and fellow Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who fell runner-up to Astros 2B Jose Altuve in the 2017 MVP voting and lost to the Astros in the 2017 ALCS, stated that the 2017 WS Championship “holds no value” and said they “cheated and didn’t earn it”. Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis said in a media statement that every Astros player “needs a beating”. Most every big star or manager has spoken out with similar themes: sign stealing is wrong, the players should be punished, the Astros have not shown enough repentance, the acts extended past 2017, and Manfred did not act quickly and harshly enough.

With the 2020 season coming up fast, there are a few things to look forward to regarding the Astros. Firstly, William Hill Sportsbook has set an over/under bet for the number of times the Houston Astros will get hit by a pitch during the regular season at a whopping 83.5 HBPs, an obscene number for a stat like that. In terms of games to watch, the Astros open their season at home against the Los Angeles Angels. Their first road game of the regular season is March 30th against the Oakland Athletics. The man who exposed the Astros for their cheating scandal and prompted the whole investigation, Mike Fiers, is slated to start at pitcher for the A’s against his former team. While the Astros don’t meet the Dodgers this season, they do meet the team they beat twice in the ALCS in 2017 and 2019 in the New York Yankees. Their first meeting is on May 15th.