Red Sox

MLB Notebook: Baseball determined not to gamble with its image

When Rob Manfred came down hard on the Houston Astros last week -- suspending both their former manager and general manager for a full year, fining the franchise $5 million and taking away four high draft picks over the next two years -- he was doubtlessly motivated by a number of factors.

Manfred wanted to restore some order to the game, in the wake of all sorts of allegations about illegal conduct on the field. Ever since reports of the Astros' sign-stealing came to light last fall, the fallout was significant, with players and fan grousing about the chaos that had enveloped the sport.

Also, the commissioner was motivated to make a statement to the rest of MLB: using technology to obtain signs is forbidden and those found guilty will be dealt with severely. You can't say that teams weren't warned: as far back as September 2017, Manfred told teams future violators would face far tougher discipline. On Monday, he proved to be a man of his word.

But -- and sorry for the cynicism -- what if Manfred had other motivations?