Pitchers across baseball may be checking their calendars to see when they’ll have an opportunity to get retribution against the Astros for cheating, but Rob Manfred is trying to get out in front of the issue.
The MLB commissioner said in a sit-down with ESPN that he will be sending a memo this week warning teams about throwing at Astros hitters, noting that punishment would be more severe.
“We have been working on for some time a memorandum about being hit by pitches, intentionally throwing at batters,” Manfred told ESPN’s Karl Ravech. “It’s really dangerous, really a dangerous undertaking, and completely independent of the Astros investigation we will be issuing at the beginning of this week a memorandum on hit by pitches which will increase the ramifications of that type of behavior.”
Manfred said he will also be meeting with every MLB manager over the next several days, and the issue of plunking Astros hitters will be discussed.
“It is simply not appropriate to express whatever frustration you may have growing out of the Astros situation by putting someone physically at risk by throwing at them,” Manfred said. “It’s just not acceptable.”
Dodgers pitcher Ross Strpling recently said he “would lean towards yes” regarding whether he would seek retaliation against the Astros in the form of throwing at hitters. “In the right time and the right place,” Stripling said.
Manfred considered stripping the Astros of their 2017 World Series title, but he’s cited history as a reason why he didn’t.
“It has never happened in baseball,” Manfred said. “I am a believer in the idea that precedent matters, and when you deviate from it you have to have a really good reason to do so.”
Jose Altuve and other Astros have denied using buzzers during the 2019 season to steal signs. MLB’s investigative report found the Astros illegally stole signs in 2017, including the playoffs, and parts of the 2018 season, but not in 2019.
“The buzzer allegation, the tape and all that, we were fully aware of that,” Manfred said. “In a way, the piece that nobody appreciates is that we found no evidence, not a single witness, who could corroborate that there were buzzers used during the 2019 season, or that they were doing anything inappropriate in the 2019 season.”
Manfred acknowledged that the Astros’ apology attempt Thursday did not come across well.
“It was not successful,” Manfred said. “Whatever a team does, for better or worse, it’s part of the responsibility of my position – we’ll continue to work with the Astros to help them put this behind them. I think in the time that’s gone by, some players have been out individually. I think they’ve done a much better job taking responsibility and expressing remorse.”