Commissioner Rob Manfred has gone soft on punishment in almost any crisis, mild or less mild. Manfred is now faced with yet another chance to show willingness to punish an ownership group for apparent malfeasance. The Miami Marlins have threatened to boil over the entire season over a COVID-19 clubhouse epidemic. As it was somewhat self-induced, punishment is justified. Manfred will fail again.
I will admit I often sound rather punitive regarding inappropriate action by a club. Many people seem to assess the risks and rewards based on the expected returns. For instance, before players were punished by the league for steroid use, no immediate downside was present. Players injected, and executives decided. With no serious blowback, it's no surprise what happened.
Manfred's first crucible for "appropriate deterrent" was when the Cardinals tapped into the Astros' draft homework. The Cardinals lost two draft picks and an insignificant amount of money. Two draft picks seem rather significant if Chris Correa was a rogue individual, but since he was in charge of running drafts for St. Louis, I'm guessing he interacted with a few people regarding any stolen information. Corporate espionage ought to come with a massive punishment, to discourage cheating. Correa went to prison, but the Cardinals mostly escaped penalty.
Speaking of the Astros, they used cheating to help win the 2017 World Series. The entire "what did who know, and when?" parameters of the topic were ugly, and never disclosed to the satisfaction of many. The punishment for making a mockery of the 2017 postseason? Four draft picks.
The Red Sox were caught doing something they were specifically told not to. Their punishment this past offseason? One draft pick.
Rob Manfred declared that teams were not to throw at the Astros this season in regards to the 2017 cheating scandal. Whether or not you think that throwing at players is barbaric, Manfred noted that vindictive aggression toward Astros hitters wouldn't be permitted. As of midday Wednesday, there has been no punishment for Joe Kelly or the Dodgers for throwing at Alex Bregman and mocking Carlos Correa.
The current blow-up of the coronavirus in the Marlins locker room is threatening to turn the eastern divisions into a mockery. The Sunday Marlins/Phillies game probably shouldn't have been played, and games across the eastern seaboard are being endangered. Rumor has it that a portion of the onset sprung from the Marlins going out clubbing in Atlanta.
At some point, a team ought to either be responsible for their decisions, or their decisions have very few repercussions. If Manfred's response (I haven't heard one in about 72 hours) is "Tsk. Tsk.", that's no level of tough love. It's apparent that Manfred's job is to allow all 30 ownership groups to make scads of money, but if misdeeds by one club crushes the credibility of the other 29, punishment should be justified.
At some point, Manfred will levy a harsh punishment against someone, right? If he doesn't, cheating and disrespecting the game will be encouraged, more so than they already have been. Fortunately, Manfred has two very easy methods of punishing teams for actions that are, to use a predecessor of Manfred's phrase: "Not in the best interest of baseball.
Each team has an international spending pool. Each team gets draft choices every June. They can be whisked away, at least in part. As poor at discipline as Manfred is, he's done both.
The Marlins should lose at least half their international spending pool for the next cycle, and multiple draft picks, for harm already done to the game. Everyone in the Marlins clubhouse ought to grasp the gravity of the current situation, whether a player, executive, or support staff. If the Marlins lose half their 2021 draft class, this is serious. If they only lose one choice, it's a frivolity.
Commissioner Manfred: Is what happened with the Marlins acceptable? If it isn't, a punishment should be coming rather soon. If it isn't, MLB lacks credibility as much as its Commissioner does.