PHOENIX – Justin Turner was still seething as he walked away following a seven-minute venting session with reporters on Monday.
The Dodgers third baseman initially tried to be diplomatic in expressing his frustration about baseball’s handling of the sign-stealing scandal involving the Astros, who defeated Los Angeles in the 2017 World Series. But the more Turner talked, the more upset he became.
And his anger was aimed directly at Major League Baseball’s top executive, Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Calling Manfred “out of touch’’ with the players and saying the punishment he meted out set a “weak precedent,’’ Turner made it clear the cheating controversy that has rocked the game is not close to being over, saying its aftermath is “snowballing.’’
The 11-year veteran was particularly incensed with Manfred’s depiction of the World Series trophy, after he said in a Sunday interview with ESPN that, “The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act.’’
Speaking before the Dodgers’ workout, Turner let loose when that topic came up.
“The reason every guy is working out all offseason and showing up to camp early and putting in all the time and effort is specifically for that trophy, which by the way, is called the Commissioner’s Trophy,’’ Turner said. “So for him to devalue it the way he did yesterday just tells me how out of touch he is with the players in this game. At this point, the only thing devaluing that trophy is it says ‘commissioner’ on it.’’
The Astros were fined $5 million, lost their top two picks in each of the next two drafts and had their general manager and manager suspended for a year – and later fired – after an investigation revealed the team used a video-based scheme to steal signs in the 2017 season and during part of 2018.
But no players were punished. And what’s more galling to many, the Astros were allowed to retain their championship, in addition to World Series shares of more than $400,000 each.
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Turner is among those who believe Houston doesn’t deserve to keep the title.
“As all these guys from their club over there are coming back and apologizing and trying to make amends for it, it’s pretty evident to me that it wasn’t earned, and it’s not something that a banner should be hung at their stadium, a trophy should be put up,’’ Turner said.
“I think what should’ve happened is the commissioner vacated their championship and then we move forward. Then we don’t have to worry about guys getting hit, we don’t have to worry about anything. It’s taken care of.’’
The Dodgers haven’t won the World Series since 1988, coming up short against Houston three years ago and against the Red Sox in 2018.
Los Angeles players haven’t been shy about expressing their disgust with the Astros, especially after the wooden apologies some of their players offered Friday. Astros owner Jim Crane went as far as saying the rule-breaking “didn’t impact the game.’’
That same day, NL MVP Cody Bellinger ripped the Astros and took a swipe at Manfred for his handling of their misdeeds, calling the punishment and Crane’s apology “weak.’’ Bellinger added that Astros second baseman Jose Altuve had stolen the 2017 AL MVP award from the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and that, “Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.”
That started a war of words with Houston shortstop Carlos Correa, who wondered about Bellinger’s ability to interpret the commissioner’s report and told him to “shut the (expletive) up.’’
Turner, an All-Star in 2017 and a respected clubhouse leader, was more upset with Manfred, questioning whether he has revealed all the facts the investigation unearthed. Turner also doubted the penalties handed out were strong enough to deter future attempts at seeking an edge through the use of banned technology.
“He set a weak precedent,’’ Turner said. “So now anyone who goes forward and cheats to win the World Series, they can live with themselves knowing it’s OK.’’
Whispers about the Astros’ tactics had wafted around baseball for some time, and the Nationals took extra measures to stymie them during last year’s World Series, which they won in seven games.
But the extent of Houston’s cheating didn’t become public until A’s pitcher Mike Fiers, who played for the Astros from 2015-2017, made the revelation in a November interview with The Athletic.
Some baseball insiders, most prominently Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, have accused Fiers of breaking the clubhouse code by exposing the Astros’ secret. But Dodgers players like infielder Max Muncy point the blame at Manfred and company.
“There’s no breaking the code in this case as far as I’m concerned,’’ Muncy said. “There were multiple complaints from multiple teams and the commissioner and MLB just ignored them. As far as we’re concerned, they wadded them up and threw them in the trash, so it took a guy like Mike Fiers coming out and saying something to finally get the ball rolling on something that should have been taken care of a long time ago.’’