Rob Manfred said words out loud in his Astros fraud scandal report published last month.
In the report, the commissioner wrote: "The Astros continued to use both the retest room and the monitor next to the shelter to decipher the characters for the rest of the regular season and throughout the postseason."
He repeated this during a press conference in Arizona on Tuesday. And it was powerful to hear the publicly spoken words, especially after Houston star Carlos Correa, who insinuated that the Astros did not use the trash can banging system during the 2017 World Series against the Dodgers.
Manfred said Thursday that he based his testimony on what Astros players had said to his investigators. And it is a reminder of how ridiculous it is every time someone who is associated with the scam tries to mitigate the action by saying there is no way of knowing if the Astros through their scheme was given a title.
Think of everything they risked to continue doing – a risk they would only have accepted if they believed the system would support them significantly.
They continued with the largest number of reporters and league officials in the postseason. They did so after White Sox launcher Danny Farquhar noticed the popping in September 2017 that motivated Astros employees to try to hide the monitor they cheated on. They did it after the commissioner's edict of September 15, 2017 against the Red Sox and Yankees in the Apple Watch incident in Boston.
The word was that the then GM of Houston, Jeff Luhnow, did not share the edict with his players – after which the future use of sign stealing technology would be treated harder in real time. But come on, the Yankees and Red Sox were two of the teams that the Astros probably thought needed to get through to win their first World Series. That was important news. Acting as if the players were not aware of the edict, and therefore they betrayed the credibility.
Manfred's loud words were another reminder that the Astros cheated to a title – an understanding that should remain even if Houston is not released from the championship or an asterisk appears next to their name in the record books.
And that's why there is so much anger among the players about what the Astros did. And it's not just fires that are known to sparkle like the Trevor Bauer of the Reds. The biggest stars are pounding away. And that includes Mike Trout and Aaron Judge. They are important because they are known to find the positive in almost everything and to stay away from negative public comments. That's why they are respected.
When Walter Cronkite opposed the Vietnam War, President Lyndon B. Johnson said famously, "If I lost Cronkite, I lost Central America," and recognized the broad respect for the journalist. The astros have lost judges and especially trout. It is powerful.
The players' association must defend its voters, even if the public or internal mood is against them. But the great rage and now the pile of trout and judge make this even more difficult for the union as their boss, Tony Clark, starts his tour to speak to each team.
Manfred also emphasized the union further, noting that it would only allow its constituents to testify to MLB with blanket immunity. This is the Commissioner's way of pointing out why the punishment of players did not result from the results. Established labor law and precedent might have made it impossible to impose substantial penalties anyway, but this was not just an attempt by the Commissioner to shift blame given the anger at the lack of player sanctions, but to force Clark to do something with his ranks to work through the kind of punishments they want in the future.
Because admitting during immunity investigations that they cheated during the off-season will not punish Astros players this time. But Manfred, who said out loud that they had cheated during the post-season 2017, reverberated more strongly than his written words and served as a certain penalty for the credibility of the 2017 title.