Astros Apologize For Scandal, But Jim Crane Faces More Heat
The Astros this morning issued their “first public apology after being involved in a cheating scandal,” with Owner Jim Crane, manager Dusty Baker, 3B Alex Bregman and 2B Jose Altuve speaking in a press conference exactly one month after MLB issued the report stemming from its investigation, according to Matt Young of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Bregman said, “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.” Altuve followed with a similar apology, and said that the team had a meeting last night to “talk about how they should move forward.” Altuve: “The whole Astros organization and the team feels bad about what happened in 2017. We especially feel remorse for the impact on the fans and the game of baseball.” Crane said, “I want to say again how sorry our team is for what happened. I want to repeat this will never happen again on my watch.” Young notes today’s comments marked the “first apology issued by any current Astros players” who were on the ’17 team named in MLB’s report. Bregman and Altuve each “fielded questions about the scandal at the team’s FanFest back in January, but both were criticized for deflecting those questions.” Crane said both players “were not prepared” and “caught off guard” when addressing reporters at FanFest (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/13). Bregman and Altuve both read "brief, prepared statements ... in a pivot from defiant tones last month" (USA TODAY, 2/13).
CRANE DENIES WORLD SERIES IMPACT: Crane during the press conference said the organization believes that the sign-stealing scandal "didn't impact the game," including the team's '17 World Series run. Crane: "We had a good team. We won the World Series, and we’ll leave it at that" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/13). MLB's Harold Reynolds said, "I think Mr. Crane would want to take that back" ("Hot Stove," MLB Network, 2/13). ESPN's Max Kellerman: "I want to hear Jim Crane say, ‘There's no way to know.’ ... I understand why the owner of the team's not going to say, ‘Yeah, we would have lost,’ but I want to see him take responsibility" ("First Take," ESPN, 2/13).
CONFIDENT BUZZERS WEREN'T USED: USA TODAY's Chris Bumbaca noted Crane also faced questions "regarding rumors the Astros wore buzzers underneath their jerseys last season." He said he believed MLB's report, which did not find the use of buzzers, is "accurate." Crane: "I truly believe there were no buzzers. I don't even know where that came from." Astros SS Carlos Correa talked in the team's clubhouse after the press conference and said, "That's a lie. Nobody wore a buzzer. Nobody wore devices. The story should be killed already because we know for sure, we are 100 percent (sure) as a team. ... It's just straight-up false. 2018, nothing. 2019, nothing. 2017 nobody wore devices either." Bumbaca noted accusations of the buzzers "began circulating online and through various player interviews across the league" after the initial report (USA TODAY, 2/13). Astros P Justin Verlander said, "I see these guys before the game, after the game, dressing and undressing, and I never saw anything like that" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/13).
TWITTER COMES DOWN HARD: Twitter commentators also had harsh words for Crane's handling of the situation. ESPN's Mike Golic: "We see why the Astros organization has handled things so poorly, it starts at the top. Their owner Jim Crane is leading the way at embarrassing the organization with these answers." L.A. Times' Dylan Hernandez: "Crane comes across as one of those out-of-touch rich guys who is used to people around him agreeing with whatever nonsense comes out of his mouth." Baseball writer Robert Murray: "Crane sounds tone deaf." N.Y. Times' Tyler Kepner: "'These are a great group of guys who did not receive proper guidance from their leaders,' Astros owner Jim Crane says. Reminder that officially MLB called this a player-driven scheme."
ANOTHER PR DISASTER: The Adcom Group Dir of Social Influence Joel Hammond tweeted, "The Astros' handling of the female reporter/clubhouse issue, the sign-stealing and other stuff will be written about and used for years by PR professors and professionals -- an unbelievably perfect case of exactly what NOT to do." MLB Rangers broadcaster CJ Nitkowski: "Astros PR trying to keep that defeated streak intact." Sports Spectrum's Jason Romano: "Houston, we have a PR problem." Newsday's Erik Boland: "It doesn't seem the Astros have dramatically improved at the whole PR thing since last year's World Series." Boston Globe's Pete Abraham: "It wouldn't seem possible to make it worse. But the Astros have made it worse." The Athletic's Marc Carig: "The Astros are doing apologies like the Iowans do caucuses." MASN's Dan Kolko: "After weeks of huddling & deciding how they were going to handle their apology, THIS is what the Astros came up with?" Former MLB writer Michael Baron: "Many people in the #Astros organization had a chance to say the right things at their Fan Fest a few weeks ago. They did not do that. And now, they follow that up with something only, as Manfred put it, an organization with an 'insular culture' could."
NOT GOING AWAY: ESPN's Kevin Negandhi: "The Astros can’t expect everyone to move forward. This will not go away." FS South's Cory McCartney: "After this, there won't be bigger heels in #MLB this season than the #Astros." YES Network's Jack Curry: "Their answers might continue to be brief, but the questions will continue."