What I’m Hearing: USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale was in the Houston Astros clubhouse following a devastating loss to the Nationals in Game 2, but he describes a positive mood throughout the team.
WASHINGTON – This 115th World Series, already roiled by an ugly and protracted incident involving the Houston Astros that remains under investigation, will at least be spared a potential public skewering of a sitting president suffering through an impeachment inquiry.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said before Friday night’s Game 3 that he had a conversation with President Trump regarding his attending a potential Game 5 on Sunday, and that the president opted out of a potential first pitch or other public appearance “in order to make the fan experience as positive as possible.”
“We actually had a conversation with him about first pitches,” Manfred said. “His view was that in order to make the fan experience as positive as possible, he would arrive at Game 5 sometime after the game began so it wouldn’t interfere with fans getting into the stadium.
“Quite frankly, we were very grateful for that. We thought it was a great decision on the President’s part.”
Game 5’s first pitch will be thrown out by chef José Andrés, who has a long-running feud with Trump.
Trump’s approval rating reached a new low of 37% earlier this month, according to a CNBC poll. The survey found 47% of Americans oppose impeachment, while 44% approve.
Meanwhile, Manfred said he was pleased the Astros “acted quickly and in an appropriate way” with their firing of assistant general manager Brandon Taubman on Thursday, three days after a Sports Illustrated report detailed Taubman’s profane tirade toward three female reporters regarding Houston closer Roberto Osuna’s acquisition after his 2018 suspension under MLB’s domestic violence policy.
Yet, Manfred did not rule out additional discipline for the Astros organization. MLB will continue to investigate both the incident and the erroneous and poorly-crafted initial statement the Astros released in response to the story.
Manfred also made reference to “aspects of this that go beyond the incident,” and “other things we want to talk to the Astros about.”
Thursday, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow refused to specify who wrote or was ultimately responsible for the statement attacking reporter Stephanie Apstein and vigorously defending Taubman. Luhnow did acknowledge he viewed the statement before it was released.
Luhnow met with Apstein in the dugout prior to Game 3 on Friday.
Manfred refused comment on whether he had greater concerns about the Astros’ organizational culture. The club has had several media-related incidents in recent years, including the barring of a reporter from the clubhouse at the request of ace Justin Verlander earlier this year.
“I would say that there a variety of issues; I’m not going to narrow it to the statement,” said Manfred, who said any action from MLB wouldn’t occur until after the World Series.
“We’re going to continue to review the situation and have conversations. It’s one thing to come and investigate, in 24 hours, a specific incident. This will take a little more time.”