02/18 19:29 CST Manfred apologizes for calling WS trophy a "piece of metal"
Manfred apologizes for calling WS trophy a "piece of metal"
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Baseball Writer
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) --- MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred apologized Tuesday for
what he called a disrespectful reference to the World Series trophy as a "piece
Even before being asked about it, Manfred said he made a mistake with those
comments while trying to deliver a rhetorical point in an interview two days
"I referred to the World Series trophy in a disrespectful way, and I want to
apologize for it," Manfred said. "There's no excuse for it. ... It was a
mistake to say what I said."
MLB players, already upset with Manfred's handling of the Houston Astros'
sign-stealing scandal and some of his comments in trying to explain it, became
further infuriated by his "piece of metal" comment during a lengthy interview
with ESPN on Sunday, the same day he spoke in Florida.
Even NBA superstar LeBron James joined the anti-Astros chorus, voicing his
anger on social media Tuesday.
While speaking at the Cactus League media day in the Arizona desert, Manfred
also pledged Tuesday to protect Oakland right-hander Mike Fiers, the ex-Astros
pitcher who became the whistleblower when he went public in November to The
"We will take every possible step to protect Mike Fiers wherever he's playing,
whether it's in Houston or somewhere else," Manfred said. "Mike did the
industry a service."
The Astros play their first road game of the regular season March 30 at the
A's, who won 97 games each of the past two years to finish second to Houston in
the AL West both times.
Cubs lefty Jon Lester, a three-time World Series champion --- with the Boston
Red Sox in 2007 and 2013, and Chicago in 2016 --- had some choice words for the
commissioner earlier Tuesday.
"That's somebody that has never played our game. You play for a reason, you
play for that piece of metal. I'm very proud of the three that I have," Lester
said at Cubs camp in Mesa, Arizona. "If that's the way he feels, then he needs
to take his name off the trophy."
Lester said the first thing he shows visitors at his house is the displayed
trophies he has won.
"I'm proud of them. That's a lot of years, a lot of hard work. You can't just
bring it down like that," the five-time All-Star said.
Manfred, after meeting with the general managers and managers of teams who
train in Arizona, said he has taken great pleasure in presenting the past five
World Series championship trophies since he became the commissioner.
James sent a two-part tweet Tuesday imploring Manfred to listen to the upset
players. The three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP said he would be irate
and uncontrollable if he found out he had been cheated out of a championship,
punctuating his comment with an asterisk-filled expletive, and adding the
"Listen here baseball commissioner listen to your.....players speaking today
about how disgusted, mad, hurt, broken, etc etc about this," James wrote in
part, adding, "you need to fix this for the sake of Sports!"
Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis spoke out earlier Tuesday, saying he
believed the commissioner had completely mishandled the situation with the
Astros and that "every single guy over there deserves a beating."
Manfred suspended Houston manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for
one season for the team's actions in using video to steal catcher's signs in
2017 and 2018, and the pair were fired by Astros owner Jim Crane. Manfred fined
the Astros $5 million and stripped them of their next two first- and
second-round draft picks.
Players were not disciplined and their 2017 World Series title remained intact.
Dozens of big leaguers have criticized the penalties as being too lax,
including Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout, NL MVP Cody Bellinger, and
All-Star pitchers Yu Darvish of the Cubs and Trevor Bauer of the Reds.
Manfred said he's never seen so much "commentary from players about other
The commissioner said MLB reached out to the players' association for player
cooperation after early efforts in making progress in the investigation were
unsuccessful. Manfred said that cooperation came in exchange for blanket
immunity for players, an agreement reached to end a stalemate.
"One of the principal complaints seems to be that the Houston players were not
disciplined," Manfred said. "And that lack of discipline immunity was
negotiated with the union that represents the players."
As for not stripping the Astros of the 2017 World Series title, Manfred said he
was "very concerned about opening the door to altering results that took place
on the field. There are a lot of things that have happened in the history of
the game that arguably could be corrected. And I just think it's an impossible
task for an institution to undertake."
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed.
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