Astros owner on sign-stealing: ‘Our opinion is this didn’t impact the game’

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After dodging the media yesterday, the Houston Astros scheduled a press conference this morning. The apparent purpose for such a press conference would be to offer some semblance of remorse for their role in the sign-stealing scandal and to at least attempt to bring the matter to a close.

If that was the intention, however, they failed miserably.

The tone was set by Astros owner Jim Crane, who began by saying that “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.”

If you asked 1,000 professional baseball players whether knowing what pitch was coming would “impact the game” I predict that 1,000 of them would say “yes.” And I’ll leave that at that.

Crane added that he did not believe that the players were to blame, saying “these are a great group of guys who did not receive proper guidance from our leaders.” Which is contrary to what Major League Baseball’s report on the matter concluded. MLB said it was, apart from Alex Cora, a “player-led” scheme and suspended leaders A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow more as an example given Rob Manfred’s previous statements about how he’d smack down the GM and manager if he found out about sign-stealing. He didn’t punish the players — he grave them immunity — but he did not absolve them. Indeed, he pretty squarely blamed everything on them.

But Crane said it’s about the leaders. Which team leaders? It must be Hinch and Luhnow, because it wasn’t him. Indeed, he specifically said “I don’t think I should be held accountable.” The buck has already stopped, it seems. Way below Jim Crane’s office.

Two players spoke as well, José Altuve and Alex Bregman. Bregman:

“I am really sorry about the choices that were made by my team, by the organization and by me. I’ve learned from this, and I hope to regain the trust of baseball fans. I would also like to thank the Astros fans for all of their support. We as a team are totally focused on moving forward to the 2020 season.”

Altuve:

“The whole Astros organization and the team feels bad about what happened in 2017. The team is determined to move forward, to play with intensity and to bring back a championship to Houston in 2020.”

New Astros manager Dusty Baker was also on hand and spoke, though it’s unclear why one of the few people in the organization who had absolutely no role in the sign-stealing whatsoever was forced to answer for it.

The Astros had months to prepare for this press conference. It resulted in a statement of defiance by the team’s owner and two less-than-one-minute statements by two players that were quite clearly crafted by PR professionals and implored people to look forward rather than back.

Maybe that’s all they will say about this, but if the Houston Astros thinks this will stop anyone else from continuing to talk about it they’re sadly mistaken.

UPDATE:

UPDATE: Carlos Correa comes with way, way more candor:

UPDATE: And now Altuve again, this time informally. He makes a much, much better statement here, probably because he was contradicting Jim Crane and the P.R. department’s strategy from the earlier, orchestrated event. It’s amazing what happens when someone just talks like a human being rather than attempts to deliver some formal statement:

 

Oakland Athletics reverse course, will continue to pay minor leaguers

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher has reversed course and will continue to pay minor leaguers. Fisher tells Slusser, “I concluded I made a mistake.” He said he is also setting up an assistance fund for furloughed employees.

The A’s decided in late May to stop paying paying minor leaguers as of June 1, which was the earliest date on which any club could do so after an MLB-wide agreement to pay minor leaguers through May 31 expired. In the event, the A’s were the only team to stop paying the $400/week stipends to players before the end of June. Some teams, notable the Royals and Twins, promised to keep the payments up through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended. The Washington Nationals decided to lop off $100 of the stipends last week but, after a day’s worth of blowback from the media and fans, reversed course themselves.