Let me take a moment to give you a flashback.
It’s October 2017. The Los Angeles Dodgers are having the best season they’ve had in years. The best season since their reign of dominance over the NL West began. They collected 104 wins over the course of the regular season, cruised to win the National League pennant, and only a talented but upstart Houston Astros team stood in the way on the Dodgers path to their first World Series title since 1988.
But the Astros were able to do what no other team had accomplished. They solved the Dodgers pitching staff — including a prime Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen in Game 5 — en route to beating LA in seven games and taking the title from the Dodgers.
A couple years later, the baseball world found out the Astros won not by pure talent coming through in the big moments, but by a sophisticated sign stealing system involving cameras and an ever-banging trash can.
One would think that a scandal that cuts right into the fabric of the integrity of the game itself would lead to a series of punishments that hadn’t been seen since the Chicago Black Sox scandal of 1919, where eight players were given lifetime bans for throwing the World Series.
That didn’t happen. No players faced punishment, and then-Astros skipper AJ Hinch is now managing the Detroit Tigers.
And Rob Manfred has regrets about that.
“I’m not sure that I would have approached it with giving players immunity. 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.”
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred via Time Magazine’s Sean Gregory
For his part, current Dodger manager Dave Roberts — who also managed the 2017 Dodgers — took the high road in his reaction to the commissioner’s remarks, while also acknowledging Manfred’s change of heart.
“I don’t think it’s beneficial for me to talk about that. I think that he said it pretty clearly that he might have done things differently as far as how he handled the players.”
Roberts to reporters ahead of Friday night’s game.
It seems like Roberts didn’t want to stoke any more flames with his comments, while also in a subtle way agreeing that immunity should not have been offered.
Dodger fans certainly haven’t forgotten, as members of the 2017 Astros are still greeted with a chorus of boos whenever they play in LA.
And as for now, the Dodgers will continue playing the Astros this weekend in something that certainly feels like so much more than any run of the mill series. The players didn’t receive any formal punishment, but that doesn’t mean that their transgressions will forever go unnoticed.