CLEVELAND, Ohio — All of baseball watched and waited as Houston Astros owner Jim Crane and his players offered apologies Thursday for the sign-stealing mess they created along the way to their 2017 World Series championship.
They waited for Crane to accept responsibility for his club damaging the integrity of the game. They waited for All-Stars Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve to offer details on how the players used technology to decode and steal opponents’ signs and relay them to Astros hitters in real time. They waited for an offer of atonement to teams such as the Dodgers and Yankees that they had wronged during their playoff run.
What they got instead was a charade. A public relations farce led by Crane that delivered hollow platitudes and was shockingly light on specifics when it came to what they were actually apologizing for.
“I am really sorry about the choices that were made by my team, by the organization and by me,” Bregman said. “I have learned from this and I hope to regain the trust of baseball fans.”
Crane and the Astros refrained from offering any sort of apologies directly to teams or players they had beaten in 2017, and closed ranks when asked if their 2017 title is tainted.
“Our opinion is that this didn’t impact the game,” Crane said. “We had a good team. We won the World Series. And we’ll leave it at that.”
He later backtracked and said it’s “hard to determine” how the sign-stealing system impacted the game, or if it impacted the game at all before going on to lay the majority of blame at the feet of fired general manager Jeff Luhnow and field manager A.J. Hinch.
Crane repeatedly pointed to MLB’s report instead of directly answering questions and vowed: “This will never happen again on my watch.”
Bregman and Altuve were trotted out and used as puppets in the press conference that preceded their clubhouse availability. Their brief comments to the gathered media there in West Palm Beach were orchestrated by the team and sounded more like spin than sincerity.
Both players, along with their teammates were more appropriately apologetic in their clubhouse remarks later, answering all questions as best they could and trying to absorb some of the blame that their owner had just moments before been so eager to heap upon Hinch and Luhnow.
But did the Astros accomplish what they set out to on Thursday, or ultimately dump more gasoline on the dumpster fire that consumed their entire offseason? The general consensus is that Houston dropped the ball on this round of apologies, and that an “apology for the apology” could eventually be forthcoming.
That’s not to mention what is going to happen once Astros players step on the field against actual opponents in spring training, or when they return to Minute Maid Park for two exhibition games against Cleveland on March 23-24 for the first time since the scandal broke.
Bregman, Altuve and their teammates are going to have to “wear it” all season. As the season trudges on, they won’t be able to escape the questions, furrowed looks, taunts and rib-high 92 mph fastballs that ultimately they deserve.
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