With the offseason closing, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred held his first press conference of the new year and his first since releasing MLB's report on their investigation into the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal.
His opening statement on the Astros sign-stealing scandal
"When we began our investigation after we became aware of the Houston situation, we started with an important and fundamental goal, and that goal was to make sure that we found the facts, completed the investigation, figured out what was going on and put ourselves in the position to be as transparent with our fans and the other clubs as possible."
"Our desire to find the facts, to figure out what really went on, drove a lot of the decisions that we made in the investigative process. And you might look backwards and say 'I would've made a different decision." I'll tell you this, I think the worst possible outcome for this institution would've been if we had conducted an investigation and came back and said 'you know, we just couldn't figure out what was going on.' People had a right to know what happened and we did achieve that goal."
On listening to criticism on the severity of the punishments dealt out
"I'm more than prepared to tolerate and listen to the debate and criticism about whether or not the punishments that have been levied in this case are sufficient. But the one thing that I do take issue with is the notion that anybody in the Houston organization escaped without punishment. I think if you look at the faces of the Houston players, as they've been out there publicly addressing this issue, they have been hurt by this. They will live with questions about what went on in 2017 and 2018 for the rest of their lives, and frankly it's rare that for any offense you have a punishment that you will live with for the rest of your life."
On giving the players immunity
"Yeah, we told the players that they were immune provided that they were honest in their answers."
On Altuve not removing his shirt in Game 6 of 2019 ALCS and the buzzer allegations
"We were aware of the file film well before we commenced the investigation, so it was in fact a part of the investigation. Here's where I came down on it. The players were candid about 2017 and the fact that they violated the rules in 2017. They were candid...about the fact that they violated the rules in 2018. And they were equally consistent in the denials -- everybody, every single witness -- in the denials of this buzzer allegation."
"I think in my own mind, it was hard for me to figure out why they would -- given that they were immune -- why they would be truthful and admit they did they wrong thing in '17, admit they did the wrong thing in '18 and then lie about what was going on in '19. Now can I tell you I'm 100 percent sure on that? You're never 100 percent sure on any of these things, but that was my best judgement."
On if he'd looked into sign-steal accusations against the Astros prior to this offseason
"Looked into is a difficult praise. Let me say this, post the Apple Watch decision in 2017, we had complaints from a variety of people about a variety of clubs, including the Astros, and in response to every one of those we undertook an effort to figure out whether or not we could verify the assertions that we made. ...I make no bones about it, without the reporting and the availability of Mike Fiers, we probably wouldn't have gotten where we got in this investigation."
On stripping the Astros of the 2017 World Series title
"We thought about it...It was high in terms of the minutes that we spent talking about it. My thinking involves several points."
"First of all, it had never happened in baseball. And I'm a precedent guy -- I'm not saying you always follow precedent but I think you ought to start by looking back at the way things have been done and you have to have a really good reason to depart from that precedent, I think."
"No. 2, I believed that the most fundamental obligation was to get the facts, put them out there and let people make their own judgement as to what happened in the 2017 season and the 2017 World Series. Once you have a situation in which the 2017 World Series will always be looked at as something different, whether or not you put an asterisk or ask for the trophy back, I don't think it makes that much difference..."
"Last, once you go down that road of changing what happens on the field, I just don't know how you decide where you stop."
On if he was reinvestigating any of the 'variety of clubs' he previously mentioned
"I'm not going to comment on where we have open investigations other than Houston and Boston."
On updates for the Red Sox investigation
"We always want the investigations to go as quickly as possible. Never, however, at the expense of making sure that we have pursued every possible lead and done everything we could possibly do to get the facts right."
"There have been a couple of developments in the Boston thing that's slowed us down, people that had to be reinterviewed as a result of things. I'm still thinking that the end of next week we should be done and should have a decision out."