Rob Manfred is in a pickle.
Like a runner trapped between first and second base, there's really no easy way out. 99% of the time, a runner in a pickle is tagged out. Every now and then, after a wild throw or an inattentive infielder or a crafty slide and the runner in a pickle will be safe.
Manfred may need all three to survive this jam.
He's granted the players immunity in the Astros sign stealing scandal which makes sense if you get to the very bottom of the cheating but less so if you still don't get the truth.
Players are lashing out at the Astros in an unprecedented way.
Mike Trout had an opinion!
And mostly, fans and players don't believe the Astros or MLB have thoroughly explained the depths of the cheating.
So how can Rob Manfred get out of this pickle?
Vacating the title is silly.
Imagine your kids begging you to go to Disneyland for months. Then, you finally go and they have the time of their lives. Rides, games, food, everyone just creating the best family vacation ever.
Three years later your kids get in trouble for throwing a huge party while you're gone. If you try to punish them by telling them to forget the memories and emotions of the Disneyland trip and deleting all pictures from the family history, they'd laugh at you. Because its dumb.
Baseball has three options to clean up this mess.
One: void contracts. Will literally never, ever happen.
Two: Ban the Astros from the postseason. This should've happened in the initial punishment from the Commish. Maybe he didn't have the juice to get the MLBPA to go along with it? Well, he does now. Instead of borrowing the title vacation from college sports, MLB should borrow the post season ban.
A one of two year post season ban runs out the clock on Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke's career and they'd likely force trades to other teams for pennies. It dissuades any free agent from signing there over the next two off seasons. And it prevents baseball from having to be further embarrassed with the Astros winning the Series, which they are good enough to do in 2020.
Its not perfect. Teams in the AL West would directly benefit moreso than any other team but it would be damning for the Astros short term and long term. Players who had no involvement in the scandal would be unduly punished. But that's for the Astros to figure out.
Or there's a third option: Do nothing.
Scandal survival 101 in 2020 in American is to wait it out and eventually people forget. Manfred could follow that playbook and hope we collectively lose our steam on talking about it.
The problem here is I don't think players have as short of attention spans as we do.
Personally, I'd go back to the MLPA and ban the Astros from the post season.
But then again, its easy to say because I'm not the one caught in a pickle.
Good luck, Rob.