Some folks made a lot of hay with comments from the Commissioner about the state of the league’s investigation of the Houston Astros for electronically stealing signs, but I think it’s important to note what he actually said.
Rather than snippets, here’s the full quote from Rob Manfred about the possibility of other teams being investigated, too (ESPN): “Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”
Note that, contrary to a lot of secondary headlines out there, Manfred did NOT say MLB has determined that no other teams were stealing signs with electronic assistance, and Manfred did NOT say that MLB would be focusing solely on the Astros to the exclusion of other teams about which they learn more.
Keep two things in mind: (1) Manfred works for the owners and represents the league – it is not in his interest to even hint at this kind of wider scandal if he doesn’t know for certain there will be punishment coming for other clubs; and (2) it increasingly seems like MLB was aware of what the Astros were doing long before the 2019 season and the rules changes designed to limit camera usage. Yet we didn’t hear boo about it until now. So, if we found out in a few months that MLB was also quietly investigating other clubs, would that really surprise anyone?
I’m just saying: other teams out there that’ve done improper things – be it the Cubs or the Brewers or whatever – shouldn’t be breathing a sigh of relief just because the Commissioner said “right now” the league is “focused” on the Astros and doesn’t currently have “reason to believe” some nebulous “it” extends beyond the Astros.
Indeed, the original report from The Athletic made it very clear that concerns about cheating on this front are a league-wide consideration – heck, part of the reason the Astros were said to have set up their system is because they believed other teams were already doing a version!
The sign-stealing concern is not just about the Astros, and Ken Rosenthal is underlining that fact about fifty times in his latest:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 20, 2019
As Ken and Evan made clear in our original piece, sign-stealing is not just an Astros issue.
The real question, as Ken writes here, is how far does MLB want to take this? https://t.co/hV6Mmknh8J
— Emma Span (@emmaspan) November 20, 2019
It is absolutely naive to think that ONLY the Astros were misbehaving and ONLY in 2017 … I mean, the Yankees and Red Sox got in trouble for this very issue in 2017! And if the Astros crap is only now coming out, despite the prevalent rumors for years, doesn’t that suggest to you that other teams/players/coaches/execs were loath to blow the whistle because they were also benefitting from some kind of system? Many players and coaches and execs change teams each year, no?
Moreover, that whole Yu Darvish-Christian Yelich dustup? Don’t lose sight of the fact that its roots were in Darvish’s *non-specific* comments about concern that non-Astros teams were doing fishy things. This is not just an Astros issue. Don’t be ridiculous.
If the league is serious about making sure there is trust in the integrity of the games’ results, they need to hammer the Astros and also dig deep on any other clubs out there about whom there are rumors (many of us who cover the sport – myself and Rosenthal, by his own words, included – have heard them). Maybe they’re just rumors. Jealousy. Coincidences. So on and so on. But some of the rumors go back almost as far as the rumors went back with the Astros.
Investigate thoroughly. And hammer the Astros.