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Guest Column: Jim Rockford On Commissioner Manfred, The Houston Astros, and Sign-Stealing

Editor’s Note: Mr. Rockford is a private detective based in Malibu, California. We here at Dubsism have retained Mr. Rockford at his standard rate of two hundred dollars per day plus expenses to be our special investigator on matters of crime and other general shadiness in the world of sports, then report back to us when needed.

If you would like to contact Mr. Rockford, at the tone, leave your name and number and he’ll get back to you

Today’s Take: The discussion of this has gone completely off the rails because it’s missing a crucial factor.  To explain why, let me get these out there right up front:

  • FACT: The Houston Astros cheated.
  • FACT: The Houston Astros got caught cheating.
  • FACT: Major League Baseball investigated this matter.
  • FACT: Major League Baseball handed down punishments based on the evidence the investigation produced.

Let’s all agree to stipulate to those. If you can’t come to terms with those four points as being facts, read no further. The whole point I’m going to make here will be lost on you.

The over-arching problem is that after those four points is where this story should end. That’s because those four points represent the entirety of “due process.” There’s the offense, the accusation, the investigation, and the adjudication. But the issue hasn’t ended there. The fact it didn’t is exactly where the problem here starts.

Ever since Major League Baseball handed down the findings of it’s investigation and the subsequent punishments, the bleating coming from the sewers known as Twitter and ESPN have been a never-ending ooze of dissatisfaction. That’s because the people who aren’t happy with the result all want to be “judge, jury, and executioner,”  They don’t think “justice” was served. That’s important to remember as we continue through this.

To quote Charles Barkley “just because you didn’t get the result you wanted doesn’t mean you didn’t get due process.” That’s why every fair and balanced system of jurisprudence, arbitration, or dispute resolution separates the roles of judge, jury, and executioner. To paraphrase another old saying judges love, the best decisions are the in which both sides leave unhappy. If I were to use that as a standard, I would say Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Rob Manfred got this one right; nobody likes this result.

He’s right because he followed due process.  That means it’s time for everybody to come to terms with it.

In order to deal with the “judge, jury, and executioner” crowd who isn’t willing to do that,  lets’ start with something else to which I’m willing to stipulate.  Both the Astros’ “apology” press conference and Manfred’s ESPN interview with Karl Ravech were unmitigated disasters. It was the first time I can remember ever seeing the “defendant” (Jim Crane and the Astros) and the prosecutor (Commissioner Manfred) both going full “Nathan Thurm;” meaning they were both fully on the defensive.

The reason why Crane and the Astros were in “damage control” mode should be obvious. They got caught. Crane may be an early front-runner for one of J-Dub’s year-end “Dubsy Awards” for his Clinton-esque word-parse in which he said “this didn’t affect the game,” then literally less than a minute letter denied saying exactly that. The entire idea of that press-conference was a terrible idea to start with; it could only makes things worse, which is precisely what it did.

Close on it’s heels, Manfred’s interview chucked another gallon of gas on the fire. That’s because he showed no sign of submitting to the whim of the “judge, jury, and executioner” crowd; he wasn’t letting this turn into a “witch hunt.” Once he stuck to “due process,” the “mob mentality” complete with torches came after him after it was clear he wasn’t going to offer up heads of players for the mob’s ritual sacrifice. He knows there is a public perception that MLB’s investigation “putted short of the cup” because the “judge, jury, and executioner” crowd thinks everything merits a “scorched earth” approach.

This is where all the bleating in the media and particularly amongst players need to consider the “big picture”…something that the one-stop “judge, jury, and executioner” types never do. They aren’t making a decision based on the evidence which was presented to Manfred.

That’s crucial for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it is only the facts entered as evidence and supported by facts uncovered during the investigation which Manfred could consider.  If you don’t want to believe that, let’s take this from the top. Back when former Houston Astros/current Oakland A’s pitcher Mike Fiers dropped the dime on his former team back in November, Manfred had to answer a series of questions:

  1. Was Fiers credible?
  2. Did his allegations contain enough merit to be investigated?
  3. If so, what should be the scope of the investigation?

Based on where we are today, the answers to the first two questions are obvious. It’s the answer to the third question which matters here. From the onset, the accusations were leveled at the Astros at an organizational level.  Forget all the noise now about players…at first, this was all about the organization.  That means the scope of the investigation started top-down with the Astros’ management.

That’s even more crucial when one stops to consider that no players were punished in this case because no evidence was uncovered fingering indivicual players to the point of Manfred’s having the ability to make such a charge stick against any particular players.   Here’s the part everybody is overlooking.  To go after players meant two things. First, you would have needed to find evidence worthy of changing the scope of the investigation from the organization to the players , and then you had better be sure you can come up with evidence so incontrovertible that even the player’s union couldn’t defend them.

Think about it.  From the minute it even looks like you’re investigating players, the union is involved. Once that happens, the public relations nightmare that becomes of this s pales in comparison to what is happening now.  Now, it’s just Manfred taking the heat.  But if this were to grow beyond that, this thing would go on for months, and you’d have never-ending fodder for the media, complete with a never-ending parade of depositions, press conferences by players and attorneys, all of which would be re-hashed to death by the 24-hour sports media cycle.

On top of that, let’s talk about terrible optics.  Imagine how a months-long fiasco it would be to have a already-borderline unpopular commissioner trying to make a case against being player’s being defended by the union, all of which happening in full view of the “judge, jury, and executioner” crowd, all of whom will be vomiting all their half-baked nonsense all over social media.

Let’s say that’s not good enough for you. Let’s say you still think Commissioner Manfred should have gone after players. Think want you want to about Manfred, but I’ll bet you that either he or someone around him figured out that digging into players could lead to the worst case scenario for such a scandal.  In other words, this has all the possibility to generate this generation’s “Rafael Palmeiro;” the guy who does the “table-pounding” denial who is the one to get caught dirty later.  Having that guy who does the “doth protest too much” thing, then gets outed for doing exactly the same thing creates a media firestorm which will quickly take on a life of its own.  Let’s be honest, only the truly naive believe the Astros are the only team in baseball doing something like this.  Don’t forget, even with the investigation having this defined scope, public opinion mushroomed this matter to affect two other teams besides the Astros. That’s precisely why Manfred doesn’t want to dig too deeply into this; he knows it’s entirely possible the Astros are just the tip of the iceberg.

Finally, let’s say you’re not buying any of this. Well, there’s an undeniable reason why Manfred didn’t go after the players…because his ability to do so is limited by the collective bargaining agreement with the player’s union. Make no mistake, that’s getting fixed the next time the CBA needs to be re-negotiated after the 2021 season, but until then, Manfred’s hands are somewhat tied.  If you’ve ever worked in a union shop, you know that one of any union’s primary functions is to safeguard the rank and file from management discipline, even if it is richly deserved. Now, one can make all sorts of arguments about clauses here and there all wrapped up that lofty load of crap about the “integrity of the game,” but unless something is specifically spelled out in the CBA, we’re right back to the aforementioned parade of depositions, press conferences by players and attorneys, all trumpeted by never-ending media circus.

That’s why we avoid the one-man “judge, jury, and executioner” model; in this case that’s because there’s simply way too many moving parts to just start handing out “summary executions.” But there’s a question that is at the root of all this which nobody is talking about.

What made Mike Fiers drop the dime on this two years after the fact?


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About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

2 comments on “Guest Column: Jim Rockford On Commissioner Manfred, The Houston Astros, and Sign-Stealing

  1. ChrisHumpherys (@SportsChump)
    February 22, 2020

    Astros players are now allegedly receiving death threats which surprises me in so much as who knew there were that many people out there who still gave a shit about baseball.

    Like

    • J-Dub
      February 22, 2020

      This is a world when Brian Cushing got stripped of the NFL Rookie of the Year Award, then thoise very same writers gave it right back to him. This whole story has become absurd and is entirely overblown. And,,,despite what ESPN wnats you to think, baseball is doing just fine.

      Like

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