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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's decision to grant Astros players immunity in exchange for confessions about their sign-stealing scheme has undermined his reputation — and he only made himself look worse on Sunday.

The interview: In a 45-minute conversation with ESPN, Manfred asserted that public shame was punishment enough for the Astros. He also called the World Series trophy "just a piece of metal" and said that taking a title away from Houston "seems like a futile act."

The reaction: Fans and the media were critical of the first comment, confused as to why it was up to them, not him, to impose some kind of lasting toll on the Astros. And Justin Turner laid into him for the "just a piece of metal" line:

"I don't know if the commissioner has ever won anything in his life. Maybe he hasn't. But the reason every guy's in this room, the reason every guy is working out all offseason ... 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."
Dodgers infielder Justin Turner

More player backlash:

  • Mike Trout: "They cheated ... I don't agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything ... Guys' careers have been affected ... I lost respect for some of those guys."
  • Kris Bryant: "I know everybody around the league is really upset [because] it's a disgrace to the game. ... I personally think it's worse than steroids. I really do."
  • Kenley Jansen: "Everybody in the world is laughing [at how MLB has handled this]. ... What are you gonna teach kids out there? You're not gonna teach anything."

The big picture: As I pointed out on Friday, MLB's problems extend far beyond Houston, with things like juiced balls and minor league cuts making Manfred the target of even more scorn. But his "just a piece of metal" comment, in particular, has taken the outrage in a new direction.

  • That lack of respect for winning, combined with the fact that he presides over an economic environment that encourages an alarming number of teams to trade their best players in the name of tax savings or even intentionally get worse, casts Manfred as more than just a spineless leader.
  • Now, he's a villain — just like the Astros.

Go deeper: Inside the Astros' front office's sign stealing operation

Go deeper

Mark Meadows will stop cooperating with Jan. 6 panel, attorney says

Photo: Chris Kleponis/Polaris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows will no longer cooperate with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, his attorney told Fox News Tuesday.

Why it matters: Meadows, who failed to appear before the panel last month, is believed to have insight into former President Trump's role in efforts to stop the certification of President Biden's election win.

Updated 3 hours ago - Economy & Business

The billionaire balloon

Data: World Inequality Report 2022; Chart: Axios Visuals

The super-rich are getting stupid rich: New data out today shows the share of global wealth held by the richest slice of humanity swelled by almost a full percentage point during the pandemic.

Driving the news: The top 0.01% of individuals now hold about 11% of the world's wealth, compared to just over 10% in 2020, according to the "World Inequality Report 2022," written by Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
3 hours ago - Health

Omicron gives a shot to boosters

Expand chart
Data: CDC; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Vaccination rates have ticked higher since the discovery of the Omicron variant, CDC data shows.

By the numbers: The seven-day average for vaccinations in the U.S. reached about 1.8 million on Monday, up from an average of about 1.3 million a month ago.

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