Houston Astros players, including Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve, issued apologies for their behavior during a Thursday morning news conference that also included team owner Jim Crane and manager Dusty Baker.
I found many of the statements insincere. They seemed as if they were read by rote, not from the heart. Crane contradicted himself. Baker’s presence was... why? He had nothing to do with the sign-stealing scandal. I suppose he’s there as the new “face” of the franchise on the field, but what could he really say?
First, listen to Bregman and Altuve:
#Astros’ Alex Bregman apologizes for sign-stealing scandal. Jose Altuve also speaks on behalf of the Houston players, who want to move forward as the team opens spring training. #MLB #SpringTraining pic.twitter.com/MwOY8TWwFv— Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard) February 13, 2020
Both of those sound like they were written by public relations folks and they had to coach the players to say them. It almost doesn’t feel as if these two players meant anything they said. Note that neither took questions.
That fell to Baker and Crane, and it was mostly Crane doing the talking. That led to embarrassing moments like this:
"Our opinion is that this didn't impact the game." - Jim Crane— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) February 13, 2020
"I didn't say it didn't impact the game." - Jim Crane 55 seconds later pic.twitter.com/MnpPeeTUPL
Well, yes, Jim. You literally did say that less than a minute earlier. But wait, he inserts his foot into his mouth again:
.@MarlyRiveraESPN Isn’t sign-stealing a distinct advantage for the hitter? So doesn’t it automatically impact competition?— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) February 13, 2020
Jim Crane: "It could possibly do that, it could possibly not."
On Tuesday, media interviewed Twins infielder Marwin Gonzalez, who was a member of the Astros in 2017. This one sounds a little bit more sincere (emphasis on “little”):
Marwin Gonzalez’s opening statement to the media:— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) February 11, 2020
“I’m remorseful for everything that happened in 2017, for everything that we did as a group, and for the players that were affected directly by us doing this ... That’s why I feel more regret and that’s why I’m remorseful.” pic.twitter.com/G35XwK2xkB
One of the players most directly affected by the scandal was... Gonzalez, whose 2017 season is a major outlier in his eight-year career:
from an internal email sent in 2017: “Marwin [Gonzalez] I’d say does the best job with getting this info [from sign stealing]"— Bradford William Davis (@_beewilly) February 13, 2020
Gonzalez had career bests in:
batting average (.303)
slugging % (.530)
home runs (23)
doubles (34) https://t.co/O76X1vEdW6
Ah, yes. Internal emails. Does that seem like potential proof that the entire organization knew about the trash-can scheme? This Washington Post article provides some evidence that the scheme was well-known around the league:
“The whole industry knows they’ve been cheating their a---- off for three or four years,” said an executive from a team that faced the Astros in the playoffs during that span. “Everybody knew it.”
Like most of the people interviewed for this story, the executive spoke on the condition of anonymity to defy an MLB request that personnel from other teams refrain from speaking freely about the Astros. He estimated “10 to 12” teams had complained to MLB about the Astros over the years. An executive from another team agreed with that number.
While the logistics of the Astros’ scheme — a camera in center field, a video monitor near the dugout, banging on trash cans to signal pitches and what the Wall Street Journal reported was an operation called “Codebreaker” to decipher the catcher’s signs — remained unknown as it was happening, suspicions that games against the Astros were contested on an uneven playing field skyrocketed.
“It was a big open secret, really big,” said a veteran scout from another team whose coverage included the Astros. “Throughout baseball, throughout the scouting community, for several years, not just starting in 2017. I would say probably 2016, maybe earlier, through , things were going on that were blatantly against the rules.”
There is, around much of baseball, a “what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse” attitude. This isn’t all bad — it’s there to help build trusting relationships among teammates and coaches. But when things diverge into something against the rules like this is, why wouldn’t someone have blown the whistle a lot earlier? “10 to 12 teams” went to MLB and nothing happened? That’s on Rob Manfred, but at a certain point someone should have made this public. That did happen eventually with Mike Fiers’ comments last November that blew the lid off the scandal.
Baseball really has to clean this up, because almost everyone is angry that the integrity of the game has been called into question.
Baseball really has to clean this up because:
Jim Crane: "I don't think I should be held accountable."— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) February 13, 2020
Hey, Jim. You’re the team owner. Eventually everything done by those who work for you reflects on you. It’s certainly not good when Rob Dibble (Rob Dibble!) is the voice of reason:
If the Asstros are really sorry, every player on The 2017 WS roster should donate their full shares to charity. A full share was 438,901.57.— Rob Dibble (@robdibble49) February 13, 2020
That wouldn’t fix everything, but it would go a long way toward making a statement that the Astros players truly are sorry. And are they really?
Gotta love how everyone in the Astros organization is saying, "okay, we made a mistake, we're sorry."— Dan Federico (@DanJFederico) February 13, 2020
A mistake is forgetting to bring dessert to a family party. A mistake is not a multi-year, secretive, elaborate sign stealing system
Are they truly sorry?
Josh Reddick says "it's hard to say why things weren't said" and it was "how the way things were here" in terms of trying to stop it in 2017. Reiterates the team is sorry for what happened— Dan Federico (@DanJFederico) February 13, 2020
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
Verlander says it's been difficult. He said when he got to the Astros, he "understood what was happening" and "should've said more." When asked what he said, "that's between me and my teammates."— Dan Federico (@DanJFederico) February 13, 2020
Does this sound like a sincere apology to you? (Sounds like “sorry we got caught” to me.)
Springer: “I’m sorry that we’re in this situation today and I regret the fact that we are in this situation today.” pic.twitter.com/XhtBnTEjtN— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) February 13, 2020
And further, this doesn’t really excuse anything:
For those disapppinted in #Astros televised apology, and rightfully so, know that Alex Bergman, Jose Alltuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Josh Reddick stood at lockers for half an hour and took some considerable heat.— Mike DiGiovanna (@MikeDiGiovanna) February 13, 2020
Meanwhile, Dave Hudgens, who was the Astros’ hitting coach in 2017, said he knew about the sign-stealing scheme and is sorry he didn’t report it:
Well, I should’ve gone into A.J.’s office and said something, like any of us should’ve done. But we didn’t. And I really can’t even think of what I was thinking back then, to be honest with you. You know, a lot of times I wouldn’t get into the dugout until we were hitting (during the game). I was in the (batting) cage a lot of the time. Nobody ever talked about it or ever said anything, to my knowledge, either to me or my assistant. It’s not something we were involved in setting up.
The Astros are likely in for a summer where they get booed mercilessly in every road ballpark in which they play, and they will have deserved every bit of it.
Some sincere, heartfelt apologies might have mitigated that. I don’t think I heard one today.