Rob Manfred: 'No reason to believe' sign-stealing scheme extends beyond Astros

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred kicked off the owners meetings Tuesday by addressing the alleged high-tech sign-stealing scheme by the Houston Astros and the league’s ongoing investigation.

Manfred said he can impose his authority to go beyond the previous discipline of fines, loss of draft picks and pulling international signing pool allocations if it’s found the Astros did steal signs through technology.

He also said he doesn’t believe any other team is involved in the scandal. Late last week, The Athletic reported that Red Sox manager Alex Cora and New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran had devised the method while with Houston in 2017.

From ESPN:

"Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros,” Manfred said. “I'm not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We'll deal with that if it happens, but I'm not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time."

He said he hopes the investigation would be done by the start of the 2020 season and called the potential rule violation “the most serious matter — it relates to the integrity of the sport,” per the Associated Press. MLB took new measures prior to the 2019 season to make their sign-stealing rules in line with modern technology.

The league opened an investigation last week into the 2017 allegations, but has questions about the two seasons since, ESPN reported.

The Astros are accused of stealing signs by using a camera set up in the outfield during the 2017 regular season. The footage was shown on a TV between the dugout and clubhouse and players would relay off-speed pitches by banging on a garbage can, pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic. Video emerged on Twitter attempting to prove the set-up and there is reportedly a paper trail via email from Astros executives to scouts.

The punishment, if the Astros are found to have engaged in the act, will set a precedent moving forward. Manfred said Tuesday he would not “speculate on what the appropriate discipline is.” From ESPN:

"That depends on how the facts are established at the end of the investigation.The general warning I issued to the clubs, I stand by. It certainly could be all of those [past disciplinary actions], but my authority under the major league constitution would be broader than those things as well."

Previous discipline by MLB includes a $2 million fine and taking two first-round draft picks from the St. Louis Cardinals in 2017. The Astros benefited since Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa was found to have hacked into Houston’s internal database in 2015.

Commissioner of Major League Baseball Rob Manfred walks on the field during batting practice before a National League wild card baseball game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Washington Nationals, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Commissioner of Major League Baseball Rob Manfred is ready to broaden his discipline if necessary for the Astros. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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