Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred apologized Tuesday for calling the championship trophy a "piece of metal" but defended his decision not to strip the Houston Astros of their 2017 World Series crown.
The Astros were fined $5 million and lost their top two MLB Draft picks for the next two years for a sign-stealing scandal detailed in an MLB investigation that found cameras and a monitor used to learn what pitches rival hurlers would throw and had players hit trash cans to signal batters what was coming.
Players arrived to begin pre-season training camps and criticized what many saw as inadequate punishments, with some saying the Astros should forfeit their World Series victory.
Manfred said calling the trophy merely a "piece of metal" was a mistake.
"I had a long day on Sunday," Manfred said. "I made one mistake, at least, during that long day. That was, in an effort to make a rhetorical point, I referred to the World Series trophy in a disrespectful way. And I want to apologize for that.
"There's no excuse for it. I made a mistake. I was trying to make a point, but I should have made it in a more effective way."
He did defend the decision to allow the Astros to keep the crown despite the widespread high-tech cheating scheme.
"I felt, and continue to feel, that the best thing we can do for our fans is to give them the facts and put them in position to make their own judgment as to what happened in 2017, what the significance of that particular World Series is," Manfred said.
"I'm also very concerned about opening the door to altering results that took place on the field. There are a lot of things that have happened in the history of the game that arguably could be corrected. I think it's an impossible task for an institution to undertake."
Manfred said a blanket immunity for players was a union-mandated condition of getting player cooperation vital to uncovering the details of the scheme.
"Because we were at a stalemate and knew we needed player witnesses, we agreed to that," Manfred said.
"Let me be clear. We would not have gotten where we got in terms of understanding the facts, learning the facts, disclosing the facts if we had not disclosed 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 and that?s how we got there."
Manfred defended Mike Fiers, the former Astros pitcher with Oakland who detailed the scheme to The Athletic website to unveil the strategy for the first time.
"We will take every possible step to protect Mike Fiers wherever he's playing, whether it's in Houston or somewhere else," Manfred said.
"Mike did the industry a service. I do believe that we will be a better institution when we emerge at the end of this episode. Without a Mike Fiers, we probably would have had a very difficult time cleaning this up."
Manfred was also concerned that rival pitchers would not throw balls at Astros batters as a way to impose punishment during games.
"We know there are going to be difficult situations, but I can't tell you that I have a magic bullet to prevent those issues," Manfred said.
"All we can do is get in front of the issue, we're really cognizant of it, and we're already taking steps to try to minimize those sorts of problems."
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred apologized for referring to the World Series championship trophy in a "disrespectful way" but defended his decision not to strip the Houston Astros of their 2017 World Series crown