MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday he has the ability to impose harsh punishment on the Houston Astros beyond the loss of draft picks should there be sufficient evidence to show they stole signs through illicit means during the 2017 regular season and postseason.
Manfred said he wasn’t going to speculate on the type of punishment, but did reveal he didn’t have any other information implicating additional teams in alleged sign-stealing schemes.
“Any allegation that relates to a rule violation that could affect the outcome of a game or games is the most serious matter — it relates to the integrity of the sport,” he said. “People want the game played consistent with our rules, and feel it's important that we figure out exactly what happened here and take steps to make sure that it doesn't happen in the future by imposing appropriate discipline.”
Houston is accused of setting up a camera in centerfield at Minute Maid Park that was hooked up to a television in the clubhouse to see whether an opposing pitcher was going to throw an off-speed pitch. An Astros team employee would allegedly relay the sign to the batter by banging on a trash can.
Manfred fined the Boston Red Sox in 2017 for using an Apple Watch to steal signs from the New York Yankees catchers. Manfred warned all teams that serious sanctions would be handed down if a violation of that type was confirmed to have happened.
“I'm not going to speculate on what the appropriate discipline is. That depends on how the facts are established at the end of the investigation,” Manfred said. “The general warning that I issued to the clubs, I stand by. It certainly could be all those things. But my authority under the major league constitution would be broader than those things, as well.”
Manfred said he believes the investigation will be completed by the start of the 2020 season.