Problems with the Investigation
In the end, the problems with the report boil down to one simple fact: Manfred could not prove anything more than what was outlined in the report. You can’t discipline someone for something you can’t prove they did, so in that sense, his hands were tied.
Unfortunately that was largely of his own doing. The breaking of the Red Sox allegations by The Athletic came out on Jan. 7, which was six days prior to the release of Manfred’s report on the Astros allegations. This means by the time MLB was investigating the Red Sox and interviewing players and staff, the Astros report had been made public and the fallout was taking shape.
Astros players were granted immunity in exchange for their full and truthful accounts of the sign stealing operation. This resulted in players being forthcoming and honest about what went on and who was involved. Thus, the scope of the league’s knowledge was exceptionally vast, especially when compared to the Red Sox situation.
Even though the Astros players avoided discipline, that doesn’t mean they avoided punishment. Their reputations have been tarnished, both in the eyes of fans and fellow players. They’ve been dragged through the mud and will continue to be labeled as cheaters and heckled by trolls for the rest of their careers. When it comes time for Hall of Fame voting for guys like Justin Verlander and Jose Altuve, who knows what the horde of holier-than-thou sportswriters will do?
The Astros being truthful also resulted in heavy discipline being levied against their club and their manager and GM. The legitimacy of their 2017 championship will be forever questioned. The black eye this scandal has left on the franchise will not go away for quite some time.
Knowing all this, what incentive would the Red Sox have to be truthful? Even with immunity, what reason would they have to be just as forthcoming as the Astros were? The fact that the Astros report was released before the Red Sox investigation took place is where Manfred really screwed up, because it gave the Red Sox reason to want to do damage control.
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Now I don’t know if their sign stealing operation was any bigger than what the report said. I have no proof that Cora knew or that more than just a few players took part in it. But these are legitimate questions, especially when you consider that many fans expected the Red Sox to get a mere slap on the wrist in the first place.
Part of the issue, too, is that the Red Sox didn’t have a disgruntled player throwing his former team under the bus, a la Mike Fiers. With Fiers coming out in the open, there was no way for the Astros to do damage control anyway. The Red Sox didn’t have that problem.
But in order to conduct a thorough investigation, Manfred should have held the Astros report and released his findings on both teams simultaneously. With Cora being an obvious common denominator between the two, it would’ve been easy to justify doing so.
But I suspect he was more than happy to allow the Astros to be the bad guy while taking time to ease the blow on the Red Sox, one of the sport’s premier franchises. The fact that the Red Sox report was released the day after the Rob Gronkowski trade and the day before the NFL Draft suggests a desire to bury it.
In the end, I can’t say I’m surprised, and neither can most Astros fans. We’ve come to expect this sort of thing, which only reinforces the long-held notion that MLB has no problem treating the Astros like a second-rate franchise with a different set of rules than the blue bloods.