Evanson: Mighty Manfred strikes out on Houston Astros scandal
This is starting to get absurd.
For quite some time now, some of our professional league's commissioners have been pulling up lame in attempts to handle their game's biggest and most notable problems.
The NBA's Adam Silver recently bungled efforts connected to the league's relationship with China in the wake of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's stance on the Hong Kong protests. The NFL's Roger Goodell has repeatedly mismanaged issues pertaining to domestic violence, along with scandals such as "Deflategate." And the NHL's Gary Bettman essentially cast his league to the land of irrelevance when he took the game's action from ESPN and gave its television rights to Comcast, and later NBC Sports, more than a decade ago.
But despite obvious gaffes by some of our game's premiere leaders, Major League Baseball's Rob Manfred is positioning himself to take the proverbial cake from his colleagues by way of his work regarding the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal.
Transparency is a good thing. It allows all interested parties oversight into what is happening and how — in this case — the investigation is going. Everyone is privy to the information and few stones are left unturned based primarily on the pressure that comes with implied accountability. Manfred would've been wise to consider that at the root of this investigation, rather than conduct it under a cloak of secrecy as the search for the facts meandered on. But he didn't, and as a result we're all asking questions we'll likely never have answers to.
Where has he gone wrong? Let us count the ways.
He gave the players immunity in an effort to get them to talk, assuming they had all the leverage. They're a part of your league, Rob, you hold all the cards. If you wanted the truth, threaten their livelihoods in exchange for the facts.
When it comes to questions regarding stripping the Astros of their 2017 World Series title, Manfred put the onus on the fans, suggesting that, sure, they get to keep "a piece of metal," referring to the trophy, but the fans will never forget. I'm not sure what's weaker, that argument or the fact that the commissioner referred to the game's most important trophy (the one that's named after the position he holds) as a "piece of metal."
He recently suggested in an interview with ESPN that the heat the Astros players and staff members are taking from the media is adequate retribution for their scandalous ways. Uh-huh — tell that to the Dodgers, Yankees, Aaron Judge and everyone else who was potentially robbed of team or individual awards by the cheaters in Houston.
And lastly, he pushed back on the anger by many regarding the lack of punishment for players by suggesting there would've been equal to more dissent had management escaped scot-free.
People are upset, and while the fans have been talking for weeks, opposing Major League players are talking now.
Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger called Astros players' apologies "whatever," Houston owner Jim Crane's "weak." And he called them cheaters during an interview last week.
Fellow Dodger Justin Turner said the following: "I think everyone just wants to hear all the facts. And I think that the commissioner didn't do a good job of revealing all the facts to us. I still think there's some stuff we don't know."
And Angels centerfielder and 2019 American League MVP Mike Trout called the situation "sad for baseball," and went on to say, "They cheated. I don't agree with the punishments."
No one does, because in addition to the cheating, it's the Astros' players, organization and fans' defiance that has made it all worse.
Their owner said, "Our opinion is this didn't impact the game. We had a good team. We won the World Series, and we'll leave it at that."
Their players, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, apologized by way of the type of robotic and prearranged statements you typically see from those doing what they feel is best, but not right.
And their fans continue to rationalize the title as if the cheating was simply a bad look for an otherwise worthy champion.
Sound good to you? Me either, but Manfred is buying it hook, line and sinker, and it's that type of ignorance that has the commish falling fast in the court of public opinion.
This is a big deal. A team cheated for upwards of three years and won a World Series championship along the way. They may have denied a rightful champion, stolen another man's MVP and forever tarnished a game that takes its reputation seriously. People lost jobs and others may have lost opportunities, but more importantly, people are losing faith in the man responsible for protecting this country's national pastime. That's the bad and ugly of it all — and I don't see any good.
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