Commissioner respects team's efforts for hurricane relief, enthusiastic about WC Games
By Richard Justice
HOUSTON -- Commissioner Rob Manfred was here for the baseball. That's the thing he loves at this time of the year.
"Look, we've had two unbelievably entertaining [Wild Card Games] already," Manfred said Thursday before the Astros defeated the Red Sox, 8-2, in Game 1 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan at Minute Maid Park.
But after a regular season that at times seemed to be symbolic of something larger for the Astros, Manfred had that on his mind as well.
"I have to tell you, [Astros owner] Jim Crane and the Astros deserve all the credit in the world," Manfred said. "There's been a real buzz around baseball about what Jim and the Astros did here in Houston.
"But even more praiseworthy is the fact that they got deeply involved in the Puerto Rico situation as well. Jim's a really good citizen and a tribute to the game."
The Astros, both collectively and individually, rolled up their sleeves and helped their city in its recovery from the massive flooding and damage done by Harvey from Aug. 25-28.
The team was forced to play a three-game home series against the Rangers in St. Petersburg, but their return to Minute Maid Park was seen by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner as the beginning of the city's recovery.
"He brought cancer patients back who needed treatment," Astros outfielder Carlos Beltran said. "And he has offered to do more. All we have to do is ask. Jim is an extraordinary human being."
As for baseball, Manfred praised an Astros team that won 101 games, saying, "Really exciting, they had a phenomenal year. Obviously, it's been a very difficult year for Houston, and I thought it particularly appropriate to make a stop here."
Manfred said the two Wild Card Games -- victories by the Yankees and D-backs -- combined great games and even greater theater.
"Unbelievable," he said. "The beginning of the Yankee game it was like the air went out when the Twins got out in a hurry. Obviously, the Yankees got back in it really quickly, and it was really exciting. Last night, I mean, just the back and forth, really, really a good baseball game.
"Both stadiums, I can't say enough about the atmosphere. Yankee Stadium was electric, and the fans in Arizona were unbelievable."
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.