MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred apologizes for calling World Series trophy a ‘piece of metal’

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona (AP) — MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred apologized Tuesday for what he called a disrespectful reference to the World Series trophy as a “piece of metal.”

Even before being asked about it, Manfred said he made a mistake with those comments while trying to deliver a rhetorical point in an interview two days earlier.

“I referred to the World Series trophy in a disrespectful way, and I want to apologize for it,” Manfred said. “There’s no excuse for it. … It was a mistake to say what I said.”

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MLB players, already upset with Manfred’s handling of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal and some of his comments in trying to explain it, became further infuriated by his “piece of metal” comment during a lengthy interview with ESPNDIS, +1.55%  on Sunday, the same day he spoke in Florida.

Even NBA superstar LeBron James joined the anti-Astros chorus, voicing his anger on social media Tuesday.

Manfred suspended Houston manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for one season for the team’s actions in using video to steal catcher’s signs in 2017 and 2018, and the pair were fired by Astros owner Jim Crane. Manfred fined the Astros $5 million and stripped them of their next two first- and second-round draft picks.

Players were not disciplined and their 2017 World Series title remained intact.

Dozens of big leaguers have criticized the penalties as being too lax, including Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout, NL MVP Cody Bellinger, and All-Star pitchers Yu Darvish of the Cubs and Trevor Bauer of the Reds.

Manfred said he’s never seen so much “commentary from players about other players.”

The commissioner said MLB reached out to the players’ association for player cooperation after early efforts in making progress in the investigation were unsuccessful. Manfred said that cooperation came in exchange for blanket immunity for players, an agreement reached to end a stalemate.

“One of the principal complaints seems to be that the Houston players were not disciplined,” Manfred said. “And that lack of discipline immunity was negotiated with the union that represents the players.”

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Union head Tony Clark said in a statement Tuesday night that “any suggestion that the association failed to cooperate with the commissioner’s investigation, obstructed the investigation, or otherwise took positions which led to a stalemate in the investigation is completely untrue. We acted to protect the rights of our members, as is our obligation under the law.”

The players’ association also said it has been working with MLB for the past two weeks on potential rules changes regarding “sign stealing, in-game technology and video, data access and usage, club audits and disclosures, player education, and enforcement — including the potential for player discipline.”

“We have made it clear to MLB that no issue is off the table, including player discipline,” the statement added.

As for not stripping the Astros of the 2017 World Series title, Manfred said he was “very concerned about opening the door to altering results that took place on the field. There are a lot of things that have happened in the history of the game that arguably could be corrected. And I just think it’s an impossible task for an institution to undertake.”

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