SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred apologized Tuesday for what he called a disrespectful reference to the World Series trophy as a “piece of metal.”
Even before being asked about it, Manfred said he made a mistake with those comments when trying to deliver a rhetorical point in an interview two days earlier.
“I referred to the World Series trophy in a disrespectful way, and I want to apologize for it,” Manfred said. “There’s no excuse for it. … It was a mistake to say what I said.”
MLB players, already upset with Manfred’s handling of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal and some of his comments in trying to explain it, became further infuriated by his “piece of metal” comment during a lengthy interview with ESPN on Sunday, the same day he spoke in Florida.
Even NBA superstar LeBron James joined the anti-Astros chorus, voicing his anger on social media Tuesday.
While speaking at the Cactus League media day in the Arizona desert, Manfred also pledged Tuesday to protect Oakland right-hander Mike Fiers, the ex-Astros pitcher who became the whistleblower when he went public in November to The Athletic.
“We will take every possible step to protect Mike Fiers wherever he’s playing, whether it’s in Houston or somewhere else,” Manfred said. “Mike did the industry a service.”
The Astros play their first road game of the regular season March 30 at the A’s, who won 97 games each of the past two years to finish second to Houston in the AL West both times.
Cubs lefty Jon Lester, a three-time World Series champion — with the Boston Red Sox in 2007 and 2013, and Chicago in 2016 — had some choice words for the commissioner earlier Tuesday.
“That’s somebody that has never played our game. You play for a reason, you play for that piece of metal. I’m very proud of the three that I have,” Lester said from the Cubs camp in Mesa, Arizona. “If that’s the way he feels, then he needs to take his name off the trophy.”
Lester said the first thing he shows visitors at his house are the displayed trophies he has won.
“I’m proud of them. That’s a lot of years, a lot of hard work. You can’t just bring it down like that,” the five-time All-Star said.
Manfred, after meeting with the general managers and managers of teams who train in Arizona, said he has taken great pleasure in presenting the past five World Series championship trophies since he became the commissioner.
James sent a two-part tweet Tuesday imploring Manfred to listen to the upset players. The three-time NBA champion said he knows that he would be irate and uncontrollable if he found out he had been cheated out of a championship, punctuating his comment with an asterisk-filled expletive, and adding the hashtag #JustMyThoughtsComingFromASportsJunkieRegardlessMyOwnSportIPlay.
“Listen here baseball commissioner listen to your…..players speaking today about how disgusted, mad, hurt, broken, etc etc about this,” James wrote in part, adding, “you need to fix this for the sake of Sports!”