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Dodgers’ Justin Turner criticizes Rob Manfred for demeaning the World Series

Justin Turner was outspoken Monday in his criticism of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
(Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

The Dodgers have reached the doorstep of a championship only to watch opponents celebrate a title at Dodger Stadium twice in the last three seasons. Several players in their clubhouse know firsthand how difficult it is to reach the summit and win a World Series. The franchise’s drought is on its 32nd year.

So when Justin Turner saw Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s comments Sunday in which he defended his investigation into the Houston Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scheme and referred to the World Series trophy as a “piece of metal,” rage boiled.

“I don’t know if the commissioner has ever won anything in his life,” Turner said in front of his locker Monday. “Maybe he hasn’t. But the reason every guy’s in this room, the reason every guy is working out all offseason, and showing up to camp early and putting in all the time and effort is specifically for that trophy, which, by the way, is called the Commissioner’s Trophy.

“So for him to devalue it the way he did yesterday just tells me how out of touch he is with the players in this game. At this point the only thing devaluing that trophy is that it says ‘Commissioner’ on it.”

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Manfred offered the description of the trophy in response to the notion that the Astros should have been forced to vacate the 2017 championship. The commissioner explained he didn’t see the point in that or adding an asterisk to the achievement. He said the league had “the intestinal fortitude to share the results of the investigation.”

“Well, it is metal,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “So he is accurate. I think he understands the value in what it signifies.”

A firestorm erupted in November when Mike Fiers, a pitcher on the 2017 Astros, told the Athletic that the Astros cheated en route to winning the World Series. Tension simmered through the offseason as the league conducted its investigation. The league hoped the ordeal would die over the winter and all would proceed as normal. That was a terrible miscalculation.

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Fuel has been poured on the debacle over the last month, igniting a fire that isn’t just about the Astros’ banging of trash cans anymore.

It began when Astros All-Stars Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve fumbled through the team’s first public comments last month. It continued last week when Astros owner Jim Crane, Bregman and Altuve botched a news conference the organization had supposedly planned to remedy the situation.

Astros shortstop Carlos Correa fanned the flames over the weekend when he passionately — and explicitly — fired back at Cody Bellinger for his unfiltered comments on the situation.

On Monday, Bellinger declined to extend the quarrel between the two.

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Justin Turner on Rob Manfred
(Los Angeles Times)

“I didn’t take any offense to it,” Bellinger said. “I have no reaction to it. It doesn’t change what I thought at all.”

The outrage reached another level, beyond the Astros organization, Sunday with Manfred’s comments, motivating the 35-year-old Turner, one of the most prominent players on one of the sport’s flagship franchises, to openly blast the commissioner unlike any other player had done. It’s open season on the commissioner and Turner is far from the only player fuming.

“If all we’re doing is playing for a piece of metal, why do we have this league?” Dodgers infielder Max Muncy wondered.

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Turner said he didn’t agree with Manfred when he said the public humiliation the Astros have faced and will continue to encounter is enough punishment. He said he found Manfred warning opposing pitchers not to plunk Astros batters ironic for a simple reason: hitters knowing what’s coming can be just as dangerous for pitchers.

Above all, Turner, like many of his peers, doesn’t believe the reported findings from the league’s investigation into the Astros’ cheating were sufficient. He believes the commissioner failed.

“I think it all comes down to everyone keeps saying, ‘The facts, the facts. You don’t know the facts. These are the facts,’” Turner said. “I don’t think anyone knows the facts. 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 that we don’t know.”

Manfred said he couldn’t conduct an effective investigation without granting players immunity in exchange for honesty. The only direct punishment the league levied was suspending Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for a season, stripping the Astros of their two top picks in the next two drafts, and fining the organization $5 million.

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Hinch and Luhnow were quickly fired while Carlos Beltran and Alex Cora, the only other people with the Astros in 2017 specifically mentioned in MLB’s report, lost their managerial jobs within days. Turner said Manfred “set a weak precedent” with his decision not to discipline players.

“Now anyone who goes forward and cheats to win a World Series, they can live with themselves knowing that, ‘Oh, it’s OK. … We’ll cheat in the World Series and bring the title back to LA. Screw Dave Roberts and screw Andrew [Friedman],” Turner said. “It’s just those guys losing their job. I still get to be called a champion the rest of my life.’ So the precedent was set by [Manfred] yesterday in this case.”

Turner maintained the Astros didn’t deserve the World Series title. He emphasized that winning a championship is a career-defining feat. He pointed to the criticism retired quarterback Dan Marino, one of his favorite players growing up as a Miami Dolphins fan, has received for never winning a Super Bowl.

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Turner asserted justice would be forcing the Astros to vacate the title. The rings should be confiscated, the banner at Minute Maid Park should be removed, and the Commissioner’s Trophy should be returned. To Turner, it isn’t just a piece of metal.

“Sorry,” Turner said, “a World Series championship is earned.”

Short hops

The Dodgers signed outfielder Terrance Gore to a minor-league contract with an invitation to major-league spring training. Gore, 28, has spent parts of six seasons in the majors, primarily as a pinch-running specialist. ... Brusdar Graterol, the hard-throwing prospect the Dodgers acquired last week, completed his first bullpen since reporting to camp after being sidelined with an illness. The 21-year-old right-hander tossed 25 pitches. ... First baseman Tyler White has been invited to Dodgers camp after clearing waivers and being outrighted off the 40-man roster. White was recently designated for assignment.


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