In the latest confounding development out of the Astros organization, the club held a curious press conference today regarding the team’s still-boiling sign-stealing scandal. Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle is among the reporters covering the event on his Twitter feed.
In a long-awaited moment, star players Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman offered only cursory statements on a matter that has sparked outrage from many quarters. Team owner Jim Crane had new manager Dusty Baker ask for forgiveness on behalf of a team he only just joined. And Crane continued his attempt to confine a controversy that has morphed into a broadening crisis, offering what came off as a dismissive take on the matter.
Bregman stated that he is “really sorry” and added that he “hope[s] to regain the trust of baseball fans.” Altuve expresed “remorse” and said that “the whole organization feels bad about what happened in 2017.” That was all for now.
Crane also brought out Baker, who replaced the uniformed leadership (A.J. Hinch) from the periods during which the Astros engaged in a longstanding, widely suspected and ultimately discovered effort to steal signs utilizing technology and then convey those signals to batters in real time. The widely respected Baker asked for forgiveness on behalf of the players. Suffice to say, it was curious to ask him to do so.
Baker said the players “showed tremendous remorse, sorrow, and embarrassment” in a private team meeting last night. Perhaps we’ll hear more of that when the Astros open their clubhouse to reporters, but it was not quite on display in the initial comments.
Most of the talking was done by team owner Jim Crane, who continued to try to separate himself and the team’s players from the fiasco. He pinned the blame on Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow, both of whom Crane canned in the aftermath of the release of the findings of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.
Crane says that he agrees with commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision not to punish the players involved in the scandal. The organization’s “leaders enabled, condoned, and did not stop” the sign-stealing effort. Crane called the players “a great group of guys” who merely lacked “proper guidance from our leaders.” It’s quite a contrast to Manfred’s report, which specifically described a “player-driven effort.”
Crane not only sought absolution for the players he’s still paying to perform on the field. He also left no doubt as to his views on his role in the situation — namely, that he had nothing to do with it. While he panned Hinch and Luhnow for their failure of leadership, Crane evidently feels no similar responsibility.
“Clearly the report states that I didn’t know about it. Had I known about it, I’d have done something about it.”
And what of his accountability, as the organization control person?
“No, I don’t think I should be held accountable.”
Crane’s rather craven approach to the matter continued as he addressed several other notable points. He acknowledged that the organization “broke the rules,” but maintained that he does not believe the sign-stealing effort had any “impact” on the team’s World Series win — leaving unaddressed the question why so much effort was put into the scheme. Frankly, no further proof beyond the concerted scheme is needed for the proposition that the people in uniform felt it improved their chances of winning.
Crane addressed the question of whether the team engaged in more recent, somewhat different cheating efforts: “I truly believe there were no buzzers ever.” Whether or not he’s sincere in that, the possibility of 2019 sign-stealing schemes is a matter that seems sure to be explored further.
Crane also noted there’ll “be some changes” in the team’s baseball operations department. He had originally maintained that the overall culture was not a problem, disputing Manfred’s report in that regard. But recent reporting has exposed the role of the baseball ops staff in originating and perpetuating the sign-stealing scheme. Several current employees were implicated clearly in a way that was not documented in the report.