Athletics

Rob Manfred explains why he didn't strip Astros' World Series, punish players

Rob Manfred explains why he didn't strip Astros' World Series, punish players

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred defended his punishments for the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal during their World Series-winning 2017 season, and his decision to grant players immunity for cooperating with the league's investigation. 

In an interview with ESPN's Karl Ravech that aired Sunday, Manfred explained why he didn't punish Astros players. 

"I understand people's desire to have the players pay a price for what went on here," Manfred said. "I think if you watch the players, watch their faces when they have to deal with this issue publicly, they have paid a price. To think they're skipping down the road into spring training, happy, that's just a mischaracterization of where we are.

"Having said that, the desire to have actual discipline imposed on them, I understand it and in a perfect world, it would have happened. We ended up where we ended up in pursuit of really, I think, the most important goal of getting the facts and getting them out there for people to know it."

Manfred suspended manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for a year without pay. Hours after their suspensions, Astros owner Jim Crane fired Hinch and Luhnow last month. The Astros also lost four MLB draft picks and were fined $5 million. 

While there has been an outcry for harsher punishments, Manfred previously has stated he has no plans of stripping the Astros of their World Series title. He also further explained in his interview with Ravech why there haven't been punishments handed down on the players. 

Manfred told Ravech that disciplining players likely would have resulted in grievances from the Major League Baseball Players Association. The commissioner cited Luhnow's failure to communicate to the Astros' players the contents of a 2017 memorandum outlining MLB's policy on the use of technology.

"Well, they just didn't do it. It's in my report. The memorandum went to the general manager, and then nothing was done from the GM down," Manfred said. "So we knew if we had disciplined the players in all likelihood we were going to have grievances and grievances that we were going to lose on the basis that we never properly informed them of the rules. Given those two things, No. 1, I knew where, or I'm certain where the responsibilities should lay in the first instance and given the fact we didn't think we could make discipline stick with the players, we made the decision we made.

"Having said that, I understand the reaction. The players, some of them in a more articulate way than others, have said, admitted they did the wrong thing. And I understand that people want to see them punished for that, and in a perfect world, they would have been punished."

[RELATED: Fiers says Astros 'cheated as a team' in response to Correa]

Manfred says he understands all the reactions that have come against himself and the Astros alike. Though he won't be punishing players or taking the Astros' title away, Manfred did insist new rules are coming for the 2020 season regarding the usage of technology. 

"No question we'll have a new policy before the 2020 season," Manfred said. "I don't deny video can help you perform if you have access to it during the game, but a golfer can't come off the sixth and take a look at his swing. ... We're going to have to live with less access to live video in and around the dugout and clubhouse."

Again, this story isn't over. Manfred will address media later Sunday at 1:30 p.m. PT.

Relive three iconic A's victories, performances against rival Astros

Relive three iconic A's victories, performances against rival Astros

Programming note: NBC Sports California will air three classic A’s-Astros games beginning Saturday at 3 p.m. PT.

Since joining the AL West after switching leagues in 2013, the Houston Astros quickly have morphed into one of the A’s most hated rivals.

Those seven seasons have produced plenty of classic matchups, as the clubs finished the season as the division’s top two teams in four of the seven years.

However, the coronavirus outbreak forcing an indefinite suspension upon MLB has robbed teams of getting a chance at revenge on Houston, after the organization was implicated in a nefarious sign-stealing scheme this offseason.

Nevertheless, there's still a way to get your fix, as fans can tune in to NBC Sports California on Saturday afternoon to relive three memorable A’s victories over the Astros.

Lowrie caps comeback -- Sept. 8, 2017

The A’s had their backs against the wall entering the bottom of the seventh inning, trailing Houston 7-3 on a cloudy fall evening in Oakland.

Then Marcus Semien walked to the plate. It took just one swing for the game to be tied at seven as the Bay Area native connected on his third career grand slam. After former A’s outfielder Josh Reddick gave Houston back the lead in the top half, the A’s brought out the power once again. 

Boog Powell led off the bottom half by tying the game with a solo home run, then a few batters later Jed Lowrie brought Semien home to deliver a walk-off win.

The A’s clearly fed off the momentum of that victory, as Oakland went on to sweep the four-game set.

Olson beats Astros -- Aug. 17, 2018

Neck-and-neck in the divisional race, these two adversaries faced off once again at the Oakland Coliseum just under a year later. 

In his 29th career MLB appearance, outfielder Nick Martini was the night’s first hero, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth with an RBI double to bring home Ramon Laureano, who initially was called out before a replay review reversed the ruling.

Slugger Matt Olson came up in the 10th, and lifted a towering shot just over the right-field fence, bringing the A’s to within one game of the AL West lead.

[RELATED: Why Olson's walk-off homer vs. Brewers was so impressive]

A’s offense explodes -- Sept. 10, 2019

A day after the A’s were hammered 15-0 at Minute Maid Park, the A’s returned the favor in a big way with a 21-7 win.

Astros starter Wade Miley lasted just a third of an inning before being relieved, having allowed six runs, all of which came on RBI singles.

Oakland ended up with six total home runs, including two apiece from Olson and young catcher Sean Murphy. It also was the first time in the expansive history of the A’s that the team scored 20 or more runs, had 25 or more hits, and hit at least six home runs in the same contest.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy what likely would have become America’s new greatest pastime this summer: Watching your team beat the Astros.

Chad Pinder, A's players will feel 'residual effects' when MLB returns

Chad Pinder, A's players will feel 'residual effects' when MLB returns

A’s utility man Chad Pinder is home in Charlotte, North Carolina getting plenty of things done. Watching Netflix, painting nursery furniture, and getting in decent workouts in his garage.

Productive, but not reassuring.

“This is kind of unprecedented in our lifetime, basically to have the nation on hold right now,” Pinder told NBC  Sports Bay Area this week. “It is a very scary time, especially in some the areas that are affected bad right now.”

It was only a few weeks ago Pinder and his Oakland teammates were in Mesa, Arizona getting ready for a highly anticipated 2020 MLB season. 

They, like most of the country, didn’t fully interpret the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at first.

“I don’t know if we initially realized what was going on,” Pinder said. “Thought maybe this would be a two-week break, month maximum. The more information you get, the more you see going around, you realize this is a long-term thing.”

Pinder, a highly-regarded clubhouse leader, now keeps in touch with teammates mostly through text messages.

“We have a group thread, everybody’s talking,” Pinder said.

Their main conversations are about MLB developments, and to keep each other in the loop of when baseball could resume. Players don’t have any more assurances or insights than the average fan does these days. But there are some certainties. 

“Even when we resume stuff, there will be residual effects of what’s been going on,” Pinder said.

[RELATED: Stewart better after coronavirus scare]

That aforementioned nursery project is indeed preparation for Chad and his wife Taylor’s first child, due in the late summer months. He is certainly seeing different perspectives of events right now, as they relate to the future.

“The way we handle this, the way we come out of this,” Pinder said. “We’ll look back on the rest of our lives and remember this time.”