The past offseason was dominated by sign-stealing scandals and how Major League Baseball handled punishments. The Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox were each reprimanded by commissioner Rob Manfred, although players did not receive any repercussions.
Instead, the penalties focused on front office members, managers and video operators. Former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch were each suspended for the 2020 season, only to subsequently be fired by owner Jim Crane.
The same applied to Alex Cora and Red Sox video operator J.T. Watkins. The New York Mets also dismissed Carlos Beltran — who was discovered to have played a major role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal — before he could even manage his first game.
Players on both teams were granted immunity from suspensions provided they cooperated in the respective investigations. The possibility of them being suspended was never really an option, either, given the lack of framework on how to address these specific issues.
That figures to change going forward, as the league and union reportedly have come to terms on new sign-stealing rules in which players could be suspended if found guilty, via Evan Drellich of The Athletic:
Now everyone faces potential suspensions, and the rules continue to put the emphasis on the manager and general manager: “It is the responsibility of the Club’s top baseball operations official and field manager to ensure that all players, baseball operations staff and field staff understand the requirements.”
While Manfred now has the ability to hand down suspensions, players still will have an opportunity to appeal decisions to a neutral arbitrator:
Typically, when a player is punished for misconduct such as brawls — or a pitcher throwing at a hitter a la Kelly — the commissioner’s office determines the punishment and hears the appeal.
Sign-stealing investigations won’t be handled the same way. Instead, players have broader protection that they’re afforded in the collective bargaining agreement. They’ll be repped by the union during an investigation and have the right to appeal to a neutral arbitrator. The difference between regular on-field conduct and sign stealing also means that, for sign stealing, players can be suspended without pay.
If three or more individuals on one team are to be punished for sign stealing, MLB and the union will discuss a way to stagger the punishments so that a large swath of one team is not unavailable at the same time.
Though Manfred could have technically suspended Astros or Red Sox players, he was said to be hesitant due to the likelihood of grievances.
Fireworks spark in Dodgers-Astros opener
Heading into this week’s two-game series against the Astros at Minute Maid Park, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was not concerned his players would look to retaliate after learning this past offseason they were cheated out of a World Series title in 2017.
However, tensions rose in Tuesday’s opener when Joe Kelly had some words with Carlos Correa after striking him out. Both benches cleared, but nothing more ensued.
MLB still dropped the hammer on Kelly, suspending him for eight games — the equivalent of 22 games in a normal 162-game season.
The right-hander has appealed the ban, while Dodgers manager Dave Roberts served his one-game suspension in Wednesday’s finale against the Astros.
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