Dodgers’ Justin Turner criticizes Rob Manfred for comments

The Dodgers have reached the doorstep of a championship and watched an opponent celebrate a title at Dodger Stadium twice in the last three seasons. Several players in their clubhouse know firsthand how difficult it is to win a World Series.

So when Justin Turner saw Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s comments Sunday in which he defended his investigation into the Houston Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scheme and referred to the World Series trophy as a “piece of metal,” rage boiled.

“I don’t know if the commissioner has ever won anything in his life,” Turner said in front of his locker Monday. “Maybe he hasn’t. But the reason every guy’s in this room, 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.

“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 that it says ‘Commissioner’ on it.”

A firestorm erupted in November when Mike Fiers, a pitcher on the 2017 Astros, told the Athletic that the Astros cheated en route to winning the World Series. The flames simmered through the offseason as the league conducted its investigation. The league hoped the ordeal would die over the winter and all would proceed as normal. That was a terrible miscalculation.

Logs have been added to the flames over the last month, igniting a blaze that isn’t just about the Astros’ banging of trash cans anymore. It began when Astros All-Stars Alex Bregman and José Altuve fumbled through the team’s first public comments last month. It continued last week when Astros owner Jim Crane, Bregman and Altuve bungled a news conference the organization had supposedly planned to remedy the situation.

And the outrage reached another level with Manfred’s comments Sunday, motivating the 35-year-old Turner, one of the most prominent players on one of the sport’s flagship franchises, to take aim at the commissioner unlike any other player had done. But Turner is far from the only player angry.

“If all we’re doing is playing for a piece of metal, why do we have this league?” Dodgers infielder Max Muncy wondered.

Like many of his peers, Turner doesn’t believe the findings from the league’s investigation into the Astros’ cheating were sufficient. He didn’t agree with Manfred when he said the public humiliation the Astros have faced and will continue to encounter will be enough. He believes the commissioner failed.

“I think it all comes down to everyone keeps saying, ‘The facts, the facts. You don’t know the facts. These are the facts,’” Turner said. “I don’t think anyone knows the facts. I think everyone just wants to hear all the facts. And I think that the commissioner didn’t do a good job of revealing all the facts to us. I still think there’s some stuff that we don’t know.”

Manfred said he couldn’t conduct an effective investigation without granting players immunity in exchange for honesty. The only direct punishment the league levied was suspending Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for a season. They were quickly fired. Turner said Manfred “set a weak precedent” with that decision.

Said Turner: “Now anyone who goes forward and cheats to win a World Series, they can live with themselves knowing that, ‘Oh, it’s OK. … We’ll cheat in the World Series and bring the title back to LA. Screw Dave Roberts and screw Andrew [Friedman]. It’s just those guys losing their job. I still get to be called a champion the rest of my life.’ So the precedent was set by [Manfred] yesterday in this case.”

Turner said the Astros didn’t deserve the World Series. He emphasized that winning a title is a career-defining feat. He pointed to the criticism former quarterback Dan Marino, one of his favorite players growing up a Miami Dolphins fan, has gotten for never winning a Super Bowl.

Justice, Turner believes, would be forcing the Astros to vacate the title. The rings should be confiscated, the banner at Minute Maid Park should be removed, and the trophy should be returned. To Turner, it isn’t just a piece of metal.

“Sorry,” Turner said, “a World Series championship is earned.”

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