At last check, the Joe Maddon tampering investigation was due to be concluded by the open of the season, but then it wasn’t. I offered some plausible explanations for the delay, ranging from mundane to terrifying:
It’s been a very busy time for MLB’s new commissioner, and there have been a lot of changes at the MLB level since January. With bigger fish to fry, this hasn’t been very high priority.
Coordinating the schedules of everyone who needs to be interviewed, and reviewing all of the potential documents has simply taken a long time.
MLB found hints of malfeasance earlier in the investigation and/or after Manfred’s comments, which necessarily spurred more investigation, and that is ongoing.
The teams and MLB have reviewed all of the information, and are together negotiating a resolution, because maybe MLB has determined, yes, there was something inappropriate here, but not quite bad enough to unilaterally blast the Cubs – so the sides are talking about what would be reasonable compensation that the Rays actually want.
MLB found clear malfeasance, and is going to punish the Cubs, but wants to wait a little bit to announce the punishment so as not to take away from the excitement and positivity of the open of the season.
I can’t say which explanation – or combination of explanations, or explanations unconsidered – has led to the continuation of a five and a half month investigation process, but there’s a report out of Tampa Bay that reads the tea leaves in favor of something happening for the Rays.
Commissioner Rob Manfred told Marc Topkin that the process should be concluded “fairly soon,” and that the timeline for these things is unpredictable because “things happen that need to be pursued.” Given those comments, and how long the process has taken, Topkin concludes that there may be something there.
Now, I should note that Topkin has been very reasonable in his commentary throughout this process, so his instincts probably have some non-zero value, even if you don’t want to hear it.
If MLB does find something, the punishment would likely be something in the range of a fine (or fines), a loss of draft pick, and/or suspensions for involved actors. None of those sound very palatable, but the Cubs have been adamant throughout the process that there was no tampering.
We’ll see soon enough.