Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred on Sunday defended the penalties imposed on the Houston Astros for a a sign-stealing scheme during its World Series-winning 2017 season, saying the investigation could not have been done without giving players immunity.
The comments came one month after the league fined the Astros $5 million, stripped its top draft picks for the next two seasons and suspended the team’s manager and general manager, who were later fired.
But Astros players, who had been granted immunity to participate in a league investigation, were not punished.
Manfred has been criticized by both fans and players from other teams for not imposing harsher penalties on the Astros.
Speaking to reporters at a spring training facility in Florida, Manfred said that in “a perfect world,” where investigators would have been able to gather the facts of the scheme without the players, they would have been disciplined.
Two star players, second baseman José Altuve and third baseman Alex Bregman, offered brief apologies Thursday during a news conference.
Manfred said it was clear from the apologies that “they will live with questions” about the 2017 season “for the rest of their lives.”
“Who relishes the idea of being a 2017 Houston Astro?” he said.
The league began investigating the scheme after a sports site, The Athletic, reported in November that the team illegally used a camera positioned in the center field of its home stadium, Minute Maid Park.
The camera was used during home games to help decode pitching signals between catchers and pitchers on the visiting team, the site reported.
Manfred also responded to reports that players may strike back against the Astros by hitting batters with pitches, saying he made it “extremely clear” that retaliation would not be tolerated.
“It is not helpful to the current situation,” he said.