MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters in a press conference Tuesday that the MLB Players Association refused to allow Houston Astros players to speak with the league regarding the 2017 World Series-winning team's sign-stealing schemes without blanket immunity, per Stephanie Apstein of Sports Illustrated.
Later Tuesday, the MLBPA issued an official response to that assertion:
The MLBPA said it "sought and received confirmation" from MLB that the players would not be punished in accordance with MLB's investigation and also noted the following:
"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."
No players have been punished following the investigation. MLB suspended Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch for one year each, but Houston owner Jim Crane fired both men in response to the investigation.
As Evan Drellich of The Athletic wrote, the MLBPA's comments are "counter" to what Manfred said Tuesday:
The key difference is the discipline aspect. The MLBPA wrote that MLB "said at the outset that it was not its intention to discipline the players," but on the discipline front, Manfred said the following.
"The MLBPA asked if we had a disciplinary intention. I think the response was we could not rule that out. The union indicated to us that would be a problem. We went back and suggested to them we would give them an initial list of people, players, that we would grant immunity to, preserving our ability to discipline other players. And the union came back and said that players would cooperate only if there was blanket immunity."
Manfred has received a torrent of criticism for his handling of the situation, namely the lack of discipline for players.
Some of the game's biggest stars have expressed significant disappointment, including the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout and the New York Yankees' Aaron Judge.
Even Los Angeles Lakers guard/forward and four-time NBA MVP LeBron James joined the chorus Tuesday:
Journalists have as well, with Molly Knight of The Athletic calling Manfred's handling "atrocious." Bill Baer of Hardball Talk called Manfred's comments a "deflection plan," and Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the "corporate commish doesn't have a clue" after calling the World Series trophy "a piece of metal" in the midst of explaining why the league did not strip Houston's championship title.
As for the Astros, the team is set to begin its 2020 season with all of the batters still remaining from its 2017 team set to take part in Opening Day on March 26 versus the Los Angeles Angels at home.