The Major League Baseball Players Association disputed commissioner Rob Manfred on Tuesday evening, saying it did not resist the league’s efforts during the MLB’s investigation of the Houston Astros’ 2017 electronic sign-stealing.
“Any suggestion that the Association failed to cooperate with the Commissioner’s investigation, obstructed the investigation, or otherwise took positions which led to a stalemate in the investigation is completely untrue,” the union said in a statement.
In a press conference earlier Tuesday, Manfred shed light on his interaction with the union during the investigation — which began in November — specifically how players were granted immunity in exchange for speaking.
According to Manfred, when the league asked to interview players, the MLBPA asked if there was “disciplinary intention,” and after such a possibility was not ruled out, indicated that any punishment “would be a problem.” Manfred said MLB suggested an initial list of players who could be granted immunity, but the union demanded “blanket immunity.”
“Because we were at a bit of a stalemate — we knew we needed player witnesses — we agreed to that immunity agreement,” Manfred said. “And let me be clear: We would not have gotten where we got in terms of understanding the facts ... if we hadn’t reached that agreement.
“So I’m not being critical of anyone. But the fact of the matter is the union wanted an immunity agreement to protect their members. That’s how we got here.”
The union’s statement clashed with Manfred’s recollection.
“MLB said from the outset that it was not its intention to discipline players,” the statement said.
It added that such a message was “not surprising” because “applicable rules did not allow for player discipline.” According to the MLBPA, players could not be punished because they weren’t notified of the rules, and because precedent with electronic sign-stealing placed the onus on team personnel, not the players, to comply with rules.
Manfred and the league have drawn heavy criticism for not punishing players involved in the cheating scandal and for not vacating the Astros’ 2017 World Series title.
While players have not been punished, several in leadership positions were. Houston manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were each suspended one year by MLB and soon after fired by the Astros. The team was fined $5 million and stripped of first- and second-round draft picks over the next two seasons.
The Boston Red Sox parted ways with manager Alex Cora (Houston’s former bench coach), and the New York Mets moved on from recently hired manager Carlos Beltran (a Houston player in 2017).
Also in its statement Tuesday, the union stated it has discussed potential rule changes surrounding sign-stealing and technology with the league over the last two weeks, adding that “no issue is off the table, including player discipline.”
—Field Level Media