MLB, MLBPA give Rob Manfred power to impose sign-stealing punishment on players

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Sign-stealing punishment, before today, was something that only happened to teams and their executives. That caused a lot of consternation when the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox players got off scot-free despite stealing opposing signs. As of today, they will no longer get automatic immunity, however.

Evan Drellich of The Athletic reported overnight that Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have come to an agreement under which Rob Manfred would be empowered to impose sign-stealing punishment on individual players. Punishments will include suspension without pay and without accrual of service time, Drellich reports.

Before now — most famously in the case of the Houston Astros — players had been given immunity in exchange for information. It was simply a practical thing, Rob Manfred claimed. The league office would not get cooperation from players if they were at risk of punishment, he reasoned. In this Manfred made the analogy to law enforcement cutting deals with smaller crooks in order to get the bigger ones. He also reasoned that, per the reality of how baseball teams worked, managers and general managers have the power to stop such schemes in ways that individual players don’t, and it was thus the GM and manager who are going to get popped. This is why Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch — and why Red Sox manager Alex Cora — were suspended.

The decision has rankled both the public and major league baseball players who were not a part of those sign-stealing schemes. Players were uncharacteristically vocal when no Astros players were punished for stealing signs and many hinted that, if Major League Baseball would take no action to impose sign-stealing punishment, they would take it into their own hands. And, so far, they have.

Some Astros players were thrown at during exhibition games this spring and during summer camp. And, of course, on Tuesday night, the Dodgers-Astros game ground to a halt when Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly threw at multiple Astros batters, leading to a benches-clearing confrontation and resulting in Kelly receiving an eight-game suspension. Many have noted that Kelly, in throwing at the Astros, punished them more than Rob Manfred did. And that Kelly himself received considerably more punishment for his relatively minor transgression than Astros players did for their major transgression.

That, now, will change. Per the new sign-stealing punishment guidelines, players involved in such shenanigans will not be able to cite the Astros or Red Sox’ immunity as grounds for mitigation. At the same time, Drellich reports, the one-year suspensions for Luhnow, Hinch, and Cora, will not stand as precedent either. In all, it sounds like the league is going to try to bring this category of rule breaking down to the level of in-game cheating or fighting, with lesser, but perhaps more routine punishment in the event it is uncovered. An effort to transform what, in the case of the Astros and Red Sox, became a big scandal, into something less sensational.

That’s a good move. As is putting everyone on notice that, going forward, the cheating that has rendered the 2017-2018 postseasons illegitimate in the minds of many, will not be tolerated and will not go unpunished.

Padres clinch NL wild-card spot during 2-1 loss to White Sox

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Padres are going back to the playoffs for the first time in a full season since 2006, a spot that they clinched during the seventh inning of a 2-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.

The Padres were batting when the Miami Marlins beat the Milwaukee Brewers in 12 innings. The sellout crowd of 41,407 at Petco Park stood and cheered the sealed wild-card spot.

The Padres trailed 2-0 at the time but Kim Ha-seong homered a few minutes later.

The Padres had a chance to win in the ninth when they put two runners on with two outs against Liam Hendriks but pinch-hitter Jorge Alfaro, who has five walk-off plate appearances this year, grounded out.

Fireworks went off and the Padres players were given hats and shirts, but there was no wild on-field celebration. Manager Bob Melvin was drenched with a cooler of water and the players gathered near the mound for photos. They were cheered by what was left of the crowd as they headed to the clubhouse.

San Diego is one game ahead of Philadelphia for the second of three NL wild cards.

The Padres won a wild-card series against St. Louis after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season before being swept in the division series by the eventual World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

Before that, they hadn’t been to the playoffs since winning the NL West in 2005 and 2006.

It’s the seventh playoff berth in franchise history and the fourth since Petco Park opened in 2004. The Padres haven’t been to the World Series since 1998, when they were swept by the New York Yankees.

The Padres reached the playoffs this year without electrifying shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who was on the cusp of returning from a broken left wrist when he was suspended for 80 games by MLB on Aug. 12 for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

Slugger Manny Machado has carried the Padres most of the season offensively and they added Juan Soto from Washington in a blockbuster deal on Aug. 2.

The Padres hired the veteran Melvin after last year’s brutal September collapse cost Jayce Tingler his job.

Lance Lynn (8-7) and Blake Snell 8-10) were locked in a scoreless duel Sunday when Elvis Andrus homered off the San Diego lefty with one out in the sixth, his 16th. His shot reached the top balcony of the brick warehouse in the left field corner at Petco Park.

The White Sox went ahead 2-0 on Adam Engel‘s two-out single in the seventh that brought in Andrew Vaughn, who had drawn a leadoff walk.

San Diego got on the scoreboard when Kim homered to left off Lynn with two outs in the seventh, his 11th.

Lynn allowed one run and five hits in seven innings, struck out five and walked one.

Snell allowed one run and three hits in six innings, struck out six and walked one.

UP NEXT

White Sox: RHP Bailey Ober (2-3, 3.18 ERA) is scheduled to start Monday at home against the Minnesota Twins, who will counter with Johnny Cueto (7-10, 3.39).

Padres: RHP Joe Musgrove (10-7, 3.03) gets the start Monday night at home against the San Francisco Giants, who will go with Carlos Rodon (14-8, 2.88).