Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has apologized for calling a World Series ring a "piece of metal" when speaking about punishments for the Houston Astros after they were caught cheating during their 2017 title run.
Manfred made the apology Tuesday at a news conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. He made the remark during an interview with ESPN Sunday when asked whether his punishments for Houston are strict enough. Some critics said he should have stripped the team of their championship rings.
"The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act," Manfred told ESPN.
Several MLB stars said Manfred devalued the cherished baseball item. MLB champions also receive the "Commissioner's Trophy" for winning the World Series.
"For him to devalue it the way he did [Sunday] just tells me how out of touch he is with the players in this game," Los Angeles star Justin Turner said. "At this point the only thing devaluing that trophy is that it says 'commissioner' on it."
"To me, that's somebody who's never played our game," two-time World Series champion Jon Lester said. "We play for a reason. You play for that piece of metal. I'm very proud of the three that I have. If that's the way he feels, he needs to take his name off the trophy."
Manfred called his comment "disrespectful" when he addressed media Tuesday in Scottsdale.
"I want to apologize for that," he said. "There's no excuse for it. I made a mistake. I was trying to make a point, but I should've made it in a more effective way.
"I will say this: I've awarded five World Series trophies. There is no greater pleasure in this job than awarding that trophy. I understand what it means, and again, it was a mistake to say what I said."
The MLB investigation found that, at the start of the 2017 season, the Astros began using a camera-based system to steal signs from opposing teams, allowing their players to know which pitches were coming during at-bats.
It also found the Astros used versions of the system during the postseason that year when they won the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The practice continued for parts of the 2018 season, but Dodgers infielder Cody Bellinger said he believes it was used even longer.
Former Astros General Manager Jeff Lunhow and team manager Grady Hinch were suspended and fired by MLB for their roles in the scheme. The Astros also were fined $5 million and forced to surrender a total of four picks in the first and second round of the MLB Draft this year and next.
The Astros host the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals Saturday in a spring training game at 6:05 p.m. EST in West Palm Beach, Fla.