The Journal Gazette
Friday, November 22, 2019 1:00 am

Astros face firm discipline in sign stealing investigation

STEPHEN HAWKINS | Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas – 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 inquiry 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.”

Labor talks

Although 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.

Minor leagues

Manfred detailed how MLB arrived at its initial proposal to drop 42 minor league teams from their current circuits for the 2021 season as part of a new Professional Baseball Agreement with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.

“We have facilities and I can show you pictures if you want to see. OK, that are simply not appropriate for professional baseball players,” Manfred said. 

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