After an offseason of silence, the Houston Astros finally addressed the sign-stealing scandal Thursday. Team owner Jim Crane, new manager Dusty Baker, and star players Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman appeared in front of the media to discuss the 2017 sign-stealing scandal.
All four men read prepared PR statements. Following their brief statements, Altuve and Bregman left to go back to the clubhouse. They did not answer questions from the media. After those opening remarks, Baker and Crane stuck around to answer questions. The Astros opened the clubhouse to media later Thursday, and Altuve and Bregman did more than read canned statements.
Team owner Jim Crane spoke first, saying this will never happen again while he’s in charge. Crane placed the blame for the scandal on the front office and leadership, frequently citing commissioner Rob Manfred’s report in saying that the players should not be punished for a failure of leadership.
Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve apologize in brief statements
Bregman spoke, saying he was sorry for what happened. He also asked for forgiveness from baseball fans.
Alex Bregman: "I am really sorry about the choices that were made by my team, by the organization and by me. I have learned from this and I hope to regain the trust of baseball fans."— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 13, 2020
Altuve said he felt remorse for what happened.
Jose Altuve: "I want to say that whole Astros organization feels bad about what happened in 2017. We especially feel remorse for the impacts on the fans and the game of baseball. Our team is determined to move forward."— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) February 13, 2020
After Altuve and Bregman returned to the clubhouse, Crane and Baker stuck around for questions. Crane addressed a number of issues, including how the scandal impacted the 2017 postseason.
Jim Crane: “Our opinion is this didn’t impact the game. We had a good team. We won the World Series and we’ll leave it at that.”— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) February 13, 2020
Crane also said he did not believe the team used electronic buzzers to steal signs in 2019.
Jim Crane: "I truly believe there were no buzzers ever.'— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 13, 2020
Crane added he doesn’t think he should be held accountable for the actions of his team. He doesn’t think it was necessary to reach out to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team the Astros beat in the 2017 World Series.
Throughout the press conference, Crane said he wasn’t sure whether the sign-stealing actually helped the Astros.
What are you guys apologizing for?— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) February 13, 2020
Jim Crane: We apologize for breaking the rules. It could possibly (impact the competition). It could possibly not.
While Baker was at the press conference, he didn’t answer many questions. Baker was the manager of the Washington Nationals in 2017. After two years out of baseball, Baker joined the Astros this offseason.
Baker said he hopes MLB is able to clean up the game.
Dusty Baker: Hopefully baseball can clean up the game where this doesn't happen again here or anywhere else.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) February 13, 2020
Making sure both Altuve and Bregman were involved was important. Not only are they two of the best players on the team, but their responses to questions at the team’s FanFest left a lot to be desired. While they were more open Thursday, Altuve and Bregman were still allowed to hide behind brief, prepared statements.
Both Altuve and Bregman have been accused of using electronic buzzers to steal signs in 2019. They have denied those accusations.
The Astros’ players finally speak
Following that presser, players spoke to the media and answered questions about the scandal. Altuve went deeper when asked about the situation, again saying he’s remorseful.
Altuve answered this one well IMO. First sense of real accountability and apology. pic.twitter.com/Io6wW8kv3Q— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) February 13, 2020
Shortstop Carlos Correa said there was no excuse for what the Astros did.
Carlos Correa (on MLB Network): There's no excuse for it. We were wrong. We feel really sorry. We affected careers and the game in some way. Looking back at it it was just bad ... For that we're paying the price now.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) February 13, 2020
Correa also pushed back on the idea that players were intimidated by Carlos Beltran. Correa added, “We had a chance to stop it as a team. Everybody.”
VIDEO: Amazing candor from Carlos Correa, calling ‘BS’ any anonymous report that Carlos Beltrán intimidated young players and that they were not allowed to speak up. pic.twitter.com/BWXzsbQvIa— Marly Rivera (@MarlyRiveraESPN) February 13, 2020
Correa continued to condemn the team’s actions, saying what the Astros did in 2017 was “terrible.”
"I don’t want my kids, I don’t want my brother, I don’t want my family members or people who follow me to think that it was right to cheat to be successful.... What we did in 2017 was terrible. We all know it and we feel really bad about it." -- Carlos Correa— Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) February 13, 2020
While others associated with the Astros have deflected or deferred to the commissioner’s report when asked whether players used buzzers in 2019, Correa flat-out denied that was the case.
Carlos Correa categorically denied the Astros were wearing buzzers. The strongest denial issued to date.— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) February 13, 2020
Pitcher Justin Verlander said he wishes he said more when he found out the team was cheating.
Justin Verlander (on MLB Network): "Once I spent some time and understood what was happening, I wish I had said more. I can't go back and reverse my decision. I wish I had said more and I didn't." Reporter: What did you say? "That's between myself and my teammates."— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) February 13, 2020
George Springer said he feels horrible about the situation.
"I feel horrible for our sport, our game, our fans, our city, our organization, the way the our team is being viewed." Springer looks genuinely upset. Also worth noting he and AJ Hinch are very, very close.— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) February 13, 2020
Yuli Gurriel said everyone was responsible for the sign stealing, not just the people who were punished by the league.
Yuli Gurriel: "No one put a gun to our head. It would be a lie to say that one or two people are responsible. We are all responsible."— Marly Rivera (@MarlyRiveraESPN) February 13, 2020
Springer: "We are ALL responsible. Carlos and Alex were great to us."
Bregman: "No one put us up to this. We did... https://t.co/WJQCtHcwy5
Outfielder Josh Reddick doesn’t feel compelled to apologize to players on opposing teams.
Josh Reddick says he doesn't feel like he needs to apologize to friends on other teams for what happened. Why? "Because I just don't think it's necessary"— Dan Federico (@DanJFederico) February 13, 2020
Sign-stealing saga continues to roil baseball
The sign-stealing scandal came to light during the offseason, when former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers — now a member of the Oakland Athletics — went on the record to expose the Astros’ trash-can-banging scheme. Major League Baseball launched an investigation into the Astros based on Fiers’ comments. As a result, the league fined the Astros, docked them multiple draft picks and suspended general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for a year. Both Hinch and Lunhow were fired by Crane hours after that punishment came down.
The fallout from the scandal around the league has been palpable. After months of angrily thinking about the scandal, opposing players and managers unleashed their thoughts on the Astros when pitchers and catchers reported. New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone and catcher Gary Sanchez expressed doubt that the Astros were completely clean in 2019, Masahiro Tanaka said he felt cheated out of a championship in 2017 and Los Angeles Angels starter Andrew Heaney said he hopes the Astros “feel like s---.” One former MLB pitcher even filed a lawsuit against the team.
Given the reaction around the league, the Astros had to come out and say something about the scandal. Whether the team’s apology was enough to satisfy angry and frustrated players remains to be seen.
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