Tony Clark’s sad Yankees memory shows why Astros should lose title

PORT ST. LUCIE — Demand that piece of metal back, Rob Manfred. Immediately.

When asked by The Post on Wednesday if the Astros should have their 2017 World Series title stripped, Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA, offered, “That is not our responsibility. That is something that falls on the league. When guys believe the integrity of the competition is being challenged, it runs the gamut of concerns, culminating with the World Series trophy, which is something that players are all committed to, trying to be the last team standing.’’

The Astros were the last team standing in 2017 only because they cheated, using electronic sign-stealing to gain an unfair advantage. Clark met with the Mets at Clover Park, the first stop along the union highway to all the spring training camps in Florida and Arizona.

Players are ticked off, and Clark’s answer made it clear Manfred is the one who can strip the title and also made it clear that players fully realize the integrity of competition was challenged.

The players know if the integrity of competition is destroyed, all is lost. Make the Astros pay for their sins. Take away their World Series trophy. If they want one. Earn one.

Remember this about Clark, he was once a player, a Yankee in 2004. And his drive to the right-field corner at Fenway Park in the ninth inning of Game 5 that October just missed bouncing off the wall and staying in play. The ball hopped into the stands for a ground-rule double, keeping the game tied at 4-4. Ruben Sierra would have scored but had to stay at third base, and the Yankees could not push across that run. The Red Sox won it in the 14th inning, 5-4.

Clark knows what he missed out on and how that hit could have sent the Yankees to the World Series. When that play was mentioned to Clark, he took off his executive director’s cap and went back to being a ballplayer.

He knows the World Series trophy is more than a piece of metal, which Manfred called it in an interview that aired Sunday before apologizing on Tuesday.

“We play the game for one reason and that is to be the best that we can be and to be recognized as the best we can be, the reason I smile is to keep from crying about that ball that bounced over the wall in 2004 because as sure as I stand here and as fortunate to play as long as I did, I don’t have a World Series ring,’’ Clark said. “That opportunity is a very personal one for guys, which is why you are seeing a lot of the concerns voiced. It would be great if it were as personal to everybody as it is to the players. We’re hopeful we can get there.’’

Got that commish?

The Astros’ cheating is personal to all players, and because the 2017 Astros players were granted immunity by MLB during its investigation, it is unlikely there will be player suspensions, but the title should be stripped from the Astros.

That would send a message to the Astros and to all players.

Clark met with the Mets to have conversations about the cheating scandal and about upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations, and talked about everything from the immunity given the players to the future use of technology in MLB.

As for that technology, players want to have the ability to look at video during games, but live-game video leaves room for cheating.

“We don’t want to go back too far in terms of technology,’’ Michael Conforto, the Mets player rep said. “We feel the line is pretty clear. The live feeds, there is no reason for them, aside from the replay guys. We don’t think the camera zooming in on the catcher’s signs is needed as well as the live feeds.’’

Delayed camera feeds would halt the ability to electronically steal signs in real time.

“The bottom line, no matter what we do, we want an even playing field,’’ Conforto said. “It’s clear around baseball we didn’t feel there was an even playing field.’’

Conforto is right. There wasn’t an even playing field in 2017.

That’s why MLB must take the World Series trophy, that piece of metal, away from the cheatin’ Astros.

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