MLB prob­ing Astros back to ‘17, ‘firm’ dis­ci­pline pos­si­ble

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By Stephen Hawkins AP Base­ball Writer

ARLINGTON, TEXAS (AP) »Ma­jor League Base­ball has widened its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of al­leged sign steal­ing by the Hous­ton Astros and will probe ac­tiv­ity by the team over the past three sea­sons.

Af­ter the con­clu­sion of own­ers meet­ings Thurs­day, base­ball Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred said MLB will “in­ves­ti­gate the Astros sit­u­a­tion as thor­oughly as hu­manly pos­si­ble.” The probe in­cludes the team’s firing of an as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager dur­ing the World Se­ries for club­house com­ments di­rected at fe­male re­porters, be­hav­ior the club at first ac­cused Sports Il­lus­trated of fab­ri­cat­ing.

“That in­ves­ti­ga­tion is go­ing to en­com­pass not only what we know about ‘17, but also ‘18 and ‘19,” Man­fred said. “To the ex­tent we are talk­ing to peo­ple all over the in­dus­try, for­mer em­ploy­ees, com­peti­tors, what­ever. To the ex­tent that we find other leads, we’re go­ing to fol­low these leads.”

Man­fred has said for now the Astros are the only team be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for cheat­ing al­le­ga­tions.

“Our clubs, all 30 of them, rec­og­nize that the in­tegrity of the com­pe­ti­tion on the field is cru­cial to what we do ev­ery day,” he said.

“I think that there’s wide sup­port across the in­dus­try for the idea that when we have a prob­lem in this area, there should be firm, se­ri­ous dis­ci­plinary ac­tion that dis­cour­ages peo­ple from en­gag­ing in this type of be­hav­ior.”

Oak­land pitcher Mike Fiers told The Ath­letic in a story last week that while he was play­ing with the Astros dur­ing their 2017 World Se­ries cham­pi­onship sea­son the team stole signs dur­ing home games by us­ing a cam­era po­si­tioned in cen­ter field. Dur­ing this year’s play­offs, Hous­ton play­ers were sus­pected of whistling in the dugout to com­mu­ni­cate pitch se­lec­tion to bat­ters.

Asked if he wished more had been done be­fore Fiers spoke out pub­licly, Man­fred said base­ball has chased ev­ery lead it has re­ceived to the “the ex­tent that we felt was in­ves­tiga­tively pos­si­ble.”

“Ob­vi­ously, an in­di­vid­ual break­ing what is a pretty firm com­mit­ment to si­lence about what goes on in dugouts and in club­houses is a big break in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to push for­ward that we haven’t had pre­vi­ously,” Man­fred said.

Man­fred fined the Bos­ton Red Sox in Septem­ber 2017 for us­ing an Ap­ple Watch to steal sig­nals from New York Yan­kees catch­ers.

“It’s a chal­lenge for our sport and all sports to reg­u­late the use of that tech­nol­ogy in a way that makes sure that we have in­tegrity in our play,” he said.

When the Red Sox were fined, only weeks be­fore the Astros won their first World Se­ries ti­tle, Man­fred said all 30 clubs were no­ti­fied that fu­ture vi­o­la­tions would be sub­ject to more se­ri­ous sanc­tions, in­clud­ing the pos­si­ble loss of draft picks.

“I wrote what I wrote be­cause I did not be­lieve that the dis­ci­pline that have been handed out in the past were in line with the sig­nif­i­cance of the is­sues that we deal deal­ing with,” he said. “I viewed them with a par­tic­u­lar level of se­ri­ous­ness.”

As whether he felt that was suf­fi­cient and his mes­sage re­ceived, Man­fred re­sponded: “Well, we know at least one in­stance it prob­a­bly wasn’t heeded.”

Astros owner Jim Crane de­clined com­ment on the al­le­ga­tions when he was seen in the ho­tel lobby Wed­nes­day, and Man­fred wouldn’t talk about any con­ver­sa­tions they had this week.

In other is­sues ad­dressed dur­ing the meet­ings at a lux­ury ho­tel ad­ja­cent to the new $1.2 bil­lion Texas Rangers ball­park that will open next sea­son: LABOR While MLB and the play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion de­cided to start labor talks more than two years be­fore their con­tract ex­pires in De­cem­ber 2021, ne­go­ti­a­tions with union head Tony Clark and top lawyer Bruce Meyer have not pro­gressed.

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