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Rob Manfred acknowledges Astros banged trash can in sign-stealing scheme in 2017 playoffs

Over a month after Major League Baseball’s report indicated that the Houston Astros illegally stole signs in the 2017 postseason without detailing the method, Commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed Tuesday that the Astros continued banging trash cans to relay signs in the playoffs.

“There was conflicting evidence on that point,” Manfred said. “But, you know, in an investigation you often have conflicting evidence and it was my view that the more credible evidence was that they continued to use the scheme for the postseason.”

Astros players, most notably shortstop Carlos Correa, have insisted the trash-can system was abandoned in the postseason because Minute Maid Park, their home stadium, was too loud for batters to hear the bangs. But Manfred said Astros players admitted the scheme was used in the postseason during the league’s investigation. The Astros beat the Dodgers in seven games to win the World Series.

Several Dodgers, notably Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger, have been outspoken about the Astros’ cheating and the league’s response. Turner took the criticism a step further Monday by directly criticizing Manfred.

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The Dodgers third baseman contended Manfred “set a weak precedent” for not punishing players directly and blasted the commissioner for referring to the World Series trophy as “a piece of metal.” Manfred apologized for the comment Tuesday.

“In an effort to make a rhetorical point, I referred to the World Series trophy in a disrespectful way,” he said. “It was a mistake to say what I said.”

Manfred made the reference Sunday when asked whether the Astros should have been forced to vacate the 2017 World Series title. The commissioner said doing that would have been unrealistic. He maintained the public humiliation the Astros have faced is enough punishment.

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“There are a lot of things that happened in the history of the game that arguably could be corrected,” Manfred said. “And I just think it’s an impossible task for an institution to undertake.”

Manfred promised to “take every possible step” to protect Mike Fiers, the former Astros pitcher who went public with the organization’s transgressions in a story published by The Athletic in November. He added that Fiers “did the industry a service” for speaking up and igniting the controversy.

The commissioner said he believes the league should “drastically” restrict video access for players during games to prevent future cheating, but the league and the players’ association are still discussing the subject.

In outlining his decision to grant players blanket immunity, Manfred said the league immediately launched its investigation once Fiers went public.

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The commissioner said the league wasn’t making progress so it decided to reach out to the players’ association to request player cooperation. But the union responded negatively when the league told the union that it could not rule out levying player discipline from its findings.

Dodgers infielder Tyler White had some playing time with the Houston Astros in 2017. White is declining to speak in detail about the Astros’ actions.

According to Manfred, the league then gave the union a list of players they would give immunity. The union responded by saying players would only cooperate if they were all given immunity. The league, believing it could not proceed without player cooperation, agreed to the parameters. He did admit that he would have to “think long and hard” about giving blanket immunity in future cases.

“Let me clear,” Manfred said, “we would have not gotten where we got in terms of understanding the facts, learning the facts, disclosing the facts if we hadn’t reached that agreement.”

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The union later released a statement disputing Manfred’s summary.

People around the league — led by players loudly speaking their minds — remain skeptical that the league extracted all the facts or, worse, believe the league did not disclose all of the facts to avoid a bigger debacle. Recent published reports indicating that the Astros’ cheating went deeper than the league’s report indicated have only fueled more doubt.

“If you don’t feel like you’re getting the facts, it’s not going to go well,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Because what’s shown is that every few weeks more facts come out. And so as we all want to move forward, I guess until things really are out, then we can’t.”

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But Manfred was adamant that the league was “successful in finding the facts” and has been completely transparent with the findings. He said he would be willing to meet with players who remain unsatisfied with MLB’s response and decision to grant immunity to players in exchange for cooperation. He said he understands there’s work ahead to ensure the sport’s integrity is not permanently damaged.

“I think that trust is something that has to be earned, or earned back,” Manfred said. “I think that we have tried to send our fans the message that no matter who’s involved, if there is an allegation that involves a violation of the rules, we’ll investigate it. We’ll investigate it with tremendous vigor and effort.”


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