He has one in particular that is of interest.
In an extensive interview with TIME that was published Wednesday, the baseball commissioner talked about a lot of his successes in the sport, including the recent rules changes that has made for quicker games, but he also spoke of his biggest regrets.
“Some of the decisions surrounding the Houston situation, would like to have those back,” Manfred said in the Q&A with the magazine. “I mean, if I could take back the rather flip comment I made about the World Series trophy at one time, I’d take that one back. There have been times, particularly in times of pressure, when I look back, taking a little more time might have led to a different outcome.”
The flip comment was one he made in February 2020 shortly after MLB’s investigation into the Astros was released and there was some outrage about him not stripping the team of their 2017 title.
“The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act,” Manfred said at the time, referring to the Commissioner’s Trophy.
Regretting referring to his sports prized trophy as “a piece of metal” is not a new admission for the commissioner. He told ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr., the same thing in an interview last summer, but in his sit-down with TIME, Manfred went deeper on his Astros’ regrets.
“I’m not sure that I would have approached it with giving players immunity,” Manfred said. “Once we gave players immunity, it puts you in a box as to what exactly you were going to do in terms of punishment. I might have gone about the investigative process without that grant of immunity and see where it takes us. Starting with, I’m not going to punish anybody, maybe not my best decision ever.”
To get Astros players to to cooperate with the league’s investigation, Manfred gave them immunity from punishment so they could speak freely. When the investigation concluded the Astros illegally used a live camera to detect signs from the opposing team’s catcher, then communicated those signals to their batters in real-time by banging on a trash can, baseball hit the franchise with a $5 million fine, stripped two years’ worth of first- and second-round draft picks and dealt one-year suspensions to general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch. Both men later were fired by the team.
After that punishment, Manfred said in a 2020 press conference that “in a perfect world,” he wouldn’t have given the players immunity.
“If I was in a world where I could have found all the facts without granting immunity, I would have done that,” Manfred said at the time.
See here if you want to relive the past. As the story notes, had Manfred attempted to punish individual players for their role in the sign stealing scandal, he would have run into fierce resistance from the MLB Players Association, as the Commissioner’s office did not have the power to do that. It surely would have gone to court and would have extended the life of that scandal well past the point at which it had begun to die down. The irony of this is that the people who have been most vocal about the lack of punishment for the participating players have been other MLB players themselves. Which is easy enough to understand – they felt like those Astros players had gotten away with it, which they though wasn’t fair. I understand why Manfred did what he did, and while one can certainly argue with the penalties he did hand out, I think he more or less did what he could have done. But I very much understand the players’ gripe as well, which was echoed by many fans. It was just a bad situation all around. One hopes it will not be repeated any time soon.