In a scathing investigatory report released last week, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred repeatedly refers to the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scheme in 2017 and 2018 as “player-driven.” Yet Manfred also declared: “I will not assess discipline against individual Astros players.”
So while Manfred suspended Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow and field manager A.J. Hinch for the 2020 season—they were later fired—no active players were even named for their involvement. Manfred justified that decision by saying it would have been “difficult and impractical” to punish players, given that virtually all of them had knowledge of or were involved in the operation to use technology to illicitly obtain and relay opposing catchers’ signals.
But there is a simpler explanation for why no players were penalized: The league and the MLB Players Association struck an agreement early in the process that granted immunity in exchange for honest testimony, according to several people familiar with the matter.
The league was quick to make such an offer, these people said, in part because it did not believe it would win subsequent grievances with any…