HOUSTON - The World Series, at its best, is an annual exercise in showcasing the best Major League Baseball has to offer. This year, the World Series is an accidental exercise in showcasing the best controversy the game has to offer.

That reality was illustrated Tuesday at Minute Maid Park when Commissioner Rob Manfred was surrounded by reporters in front of the Houston Astros' dugout.

As he answered - or didn't - questions about the Astros being back in the World Series after being caught stealing signs in 2017, Houston fans heckled him with comments such as "You scapegoated us" - the implication being that the Astros were not the only ones breaking the rules.

Meanwhile, social media was abuzz with frustration about how to feel that a team caught cheating is back in the World Series so soon - and that the players who benefited from stealing signs suffered only boos as punishment.

"My general thoughts are that we had a great division series, LCS. We've got two teams that have played really, really well, and I'm looking forward to a great World Series. It's all forward-looking from my perspective," Manfred said before the Atlanta Braves took on the Astros in Game 1.

Asked again, Manfred didn't budge.

"I'm going to say it one more time: I'm looking forward to a great World Series," he said. "That's what you're going to get."

He also got questions about the Braves, whose presence in the World Series resurfaced concerns about their name. Starting next season, Cleveland will play as the Guardians after changing its name under pressure, but Atlanta has yet to face the same scrutiny. The organization has maintained it will neither change its name nor dissuade its fans from performing the "tomahawk chop," the in-game rallying cry in which they mimic what is meant to be a Native American chant.

The organization said it has consulted with local Cherokee leaders who see the name as a source of pride. Manfred said that local buy-in is what separates Atlanta's name from Cleveland's.

"It's important to understand that we have 30 markets around the country. They aren't all the same. The Braves have done a phenomenal job with the Native American community," Manfred said. "The Native American community in that region is wholly supportive of the Braves' program, including the chop. For me, that's kind of the end of the story. In that market, we're taking into account the Native American community."

Pushed further about whether local tribes should be the only ones whose opinions matter in a sport that is played nationwide, Manfred noted, "We don't market ourselves on a nationwide basis" - a surprising thing to say about a league that is struggling to reach younger generations and new fans to widen its appeal.

"Ours is an everyday game. You've got to sell tickets every single day to the fans in that market. And there are all sorts of differences between the regions in terms of how the teams are marketed," Manfred said. "I don't know how every Native American group around the country feels. I am 100 percent certain that the Braves understand what the Native American community in their area believes, and they have acted in keeping with that."

Those controversies could garner more attention than an expiring collective bargaining agreement, a testament to the extent to which Atlanta and Houston are polarizing forces in the game. But Manfred and his MLB Players Association counterpart, Tony Clark, addressed CBA negotiations, too.

They both said they are aiming to have a deal in place by Dec. 1, when the current agreement expires, and Clark said the union isn't looking beyond that. Manfred characterized himself as optimistic but admitted he probably wouldn't say so if he weren't.

"Have you ever heard me say I'm anything but optimistic about getting an agreement? I am a believer in the process," he said. "We meet on a regular basis. I'm hopeful we'll find a way to get an agreement by Dec. 1."

Manfred called getting a deal done before the agreement expires "our number one priority" and said winning in the context of these negotiations is not about any one particular detail.

"The most important thing is not one paragraph, two paragraphs in the agreement," said Manfred, who added that the sides have been speaking regularly in recent weeks. "The most important thing, the win in collective bargaining, is you make an agreement."

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