In the aftermath of the Astros sign-stealing scandal, three managers and a general manager are out of jobs.
But why were no players suspended or otherwise disciplined? One — then-Astros player Carlos Beltran — was specifically named in Commissioner Rob Manfred’s report on MLB’s investigation. Beltran lost his job as manager of the Mets as a result.
In the Wall Street Journal, Jared Diamond explains why players got a pass from Manfred:
Manfred justified that decision by saying it would have been “difficult and impractical” to punish players, given that virtually all of them had knowledge of or were involved in the operation to use technology to illicitly obtain and relay opposing catchers’ signals.
But there is a simpler explanation for why no players were penalized: The league and the MLB Players Association struck an agreement early in the process that granted immunity in exchange for honest testimony, according to several people familiar with the matter.
The league was quick to make such an offer, these people said, in part because it did not believe it would win subsequent grievances with any players it attempted to discipline. That’s partly because of a bureaucratic shortcoming: The Astros’ front office never discussed with players the league’s admonitions against using electronic devices to steal signs, according to Manfred’s statement.
You might not agree with the way this was handled; I think it was probably the best possible solution to the entire scandal. Without an agreement for “immunity,” it was unlikely that players would have spoken freely about what happened. You might argue — and justifiably so — that Beltran should have been suspended, first, because as a former player he’d have no recourse to the MLBPA’s grievance process, and second, because he was prominently named in Manfred’s report:
Approximately two months into the 2017 season, a group of players, including Carlos Beltrán, discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams’ signs and communicating the signs to the batter.
It’s hard to determine from that statement exactly what role Beltran had in creating this system; the statement only says he was part of “a group of players.” Yet Manfred had no difficulty naming Beltran and no one else.
Astros players didn’t help their cause by their non-statements at last weekend’s Astros Fan Fest. Alex Bregman:
That’s a whole lot of nothing, in my view. Astros owner Jim Crane says apologies will be given by players at spring training:
Astros owner Jim Crane said when the team assembles for Spring Training the players will come up with a plan to address the sign stealing saga publicly and will apologize for their role in the events that led to MLB’s sanctions. pic.twitter.com/55GzQDUgMe— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) January 22, 2020
You know that “as always, we await developments” is one of my favorite ways to end an article. In this case, that’s all we can do. We’re only about three weeks away from players reporting to spring training, so when we do hear from Astros players about the scandal, I’d like to hear more than Bregman and Altuve said at the team’s Fan Fest.
This scandal shows no signs of going away anytime soon.