Jim Crane on critics of Astros sign-stealing: ‘I don’t know what else they want us to do’

Astros sign-stealing
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Astros owner Jim Crane sat for an interview with Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Most of the talk was about the Astros sign-stealing scandal and its fallout. It also touched on the Brandon Taubman incident and the team’s acquisition of reliever Roberto Osuna, both of which created tremendous controversy of their own.

Crane’s take on most of it seems to be that he and the Astros are the real victims here, and everyone else should leave them alone already. Really. That’s the vibe he gives off on all of this.

Crane seems to believe that the Astros sign-stealing fallout is overblown and that the public’s anger mostly has to do with how Crane himself bungled the P.R. He allows that his comments after the scandal hit, in which he said he didn’t believe that the sign-stealing affected any games, were misguided. However, even as he says that, he seems to be workshopping an answer he wished he had given that would not have caused as much blowback but which still would have been a deflection:

“We didn’t come off like I wanted to,’’ Crane said Wednesday. “If I had to do it over again, I’d do it differently. The press conference didn’t go well at all. I didn’t handle it as well as I should have.

“I said (the sign stealing) didn’t affect the game. What I should have said is that I can’t impact the decision Rob (Manfred) made not to change history. He was not going to alter the game. He wasn’t going to take away the World Series trophy . . . “If we had to re-run it, we would have had tried to do a better job of apologizing and tried to be more sincere. But you’re under the gun. You try to answer the same question 18 times. It’s not a spot I ever want to be in again.”

So sorry you had to be in that spot, Jim. Truly, you are the person most harmed here. Oh, and you wouldn’t be asked the same question 18 times if you answered it honestly and credibly the first time. You were asked all those times because you said truly, gobsmackingly, implausible things about the effect of the Astros sign-stealing to begin with.

Taubman, you will recall, is the former Astros assistant GM who was fired after the American League Championship Series because he yelled “Thank God we got Osuna!” and hurled expletives at female reporter in the clubhouse. This after Taubman had reportedly made multiple complaints about the reporter taking issue with the Astros’ acquisition of Osuna in the wake of his domestic violence suspension. Here is what Crane said about him:

“Brandon Taubman didn’t commit domestic violence. He just made a comment. It’s nothing you can defend. He had a few cocktails. He was happy. There were people constantly coming at him over (Osuna), and he overreacted. Did he do the right thing? No. Everybody makes mistakes. But is he a good, genuine decent person and smart kid? Absolutely. I hated to see him lose his job, but we had no choice.”

Note that Crane, again, frames this as something that happened to the club and to Taubman. Something that had to be done for the sake of public relations considerations which gave him “no choice.” Nowhere does Crane acknowledge what sort of message Taubman’s behavior sent. What sort of atmosphere it created for the people covering the Astros. How obnoxious his behavior was and how poorly it reflected on the organization. If he saw it through that lens Crane would realize that he had the most incredibly easy decision ever in firing Taubman, not that he “had no choice.”

It’s also worth noting here that, yes, one could still communicate personal affinity for a person like Taubman if one wanted to and still note that his behavior was unacceptable and worthy of his termination. He could say “Taubman is a good, genuine decent person and smart kid,” but he made a big mistake and the behavior and attitude he displayed that night were in direct conflict to the values of the organization. Crane, however, views this solely through a prism of his affection for the guy. It’s abundantly clear that he would not have fired him if the story didn’t get out. He’s not sorry that it happened. He’s sorry they got caught.

The thing that led to the Taubman incident, of course, was the acquisition of Roberto Osuna, who committed a heinous act of domestic violence. It was an acquisition that went over very poorly with the public and the press and completely contradicted what his own General Manager, Jeff Luhnow, had said was a “zero tolerance” policy for domestic violence on the club. Here’s Crane talking about that now:

“We didn’t anticipate the Osuna thing would catch that much heat. But when it did, the players were concerned. I told the guys on our team, ‘Listen, we made the decision. He paid his price. We think he deserves a second chance. If he screws up, he’s out of here. You don’t have to worry about it.’ After that, it was fine. That’s with the players. Not so much with the public. It was just a lightning rod of a subject.”

That he didn’t realize they’d catch that much heat speaks to how little they truly thought about domestic violence as a subject that mattered to the team’s fans and the baseball community at large. And again, his words here are all about how much hell he and the team caught. There is no reflection about what employing Osuna means or an acknowledgment that it remains alienating for many fans.

Crane then went on to talk about Rob Manfred’s finding, in the Astros sign-stealing report, that defects in the Astros front office culture was a common thread to these missteps. Crane is not buying it. He calls them all isolated incidents and implies that he and the Astros have been unfairly given the black hat by the public.

Take from that what you will, but one thing you can’t take from it is anything approaching reflection upon the scandals in which the team has found itself in the past three years. The Astros sign-stealing. The Taubman thing. The Osuna signing. He does not seem to be interested in any of that at all.

Anthony Volpe, 21, wins Yankees’ starting shortstop job

Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sp

TAMPA, Fla. — Anthony Volpe grew up watching Derek Jeter star at shortstop for the New York Yankees.

Now, the 21-year-old is getting the chance to be the Yankees’ opening day shortstop against the San Francisco Giants.

The team announced after a 6-2 win over Toronto in spring training that Volpe had won the spot. New York manager Aaron Boone called the kid into his office to deliver the news.

“My heart was beating pretty hard,” said Volpe, rated one of baseball’s best prospects. “Incredible. I’m just so excited. It’s hard for me to even put into words.”

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, hitting coach Dillon Lawson and bench coach Carlos Mendoza were also present.

Volpe was able to share the news with his parents and other family members near the Yankees’ dugout and said it is something he will never forget.

“It was pretty emotional,” Volpe said. “It was just an unbelievable moment to share with them.”

Volpe, who grew up a Yankees fan, lived in Manhattan as a child before moving to New Jersey. Jeter was his favorite player.

“It’s very surreal,” Volpe said. “I’ve only ever been to games at Yankee Stadium and for the most part only watched him play there.”

Volpe is hitting .314 with three homers, five RBIs and a .417 on-base percentage in 17 Grapefruit League games. He has just 22 games of experience at Triple-A.

Spring training started with Volpe, Oswald Peraza and holdover Isiah Kiner-Falefa competing for the everyday shortstop job. Kiner-Falefa was shifted into a utility role midway through camp, and Peraza was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday evening.

“While certainly the performance was there, he killed it between the lines,” Boone said of Volpe. “All the other things that we’ve been hearing about showed up. There’s an energy he plays the game with, and an instinct that he has that is evident. He really checked every box that we could have had for him. Absolutely kicked the door in and earned his opportunity.”

Volpe arrived in Florida in December to work out at the Yankees’ minor league complex.

“He’s earned the right to take that spot, and we’re excited for him and excited for us,” Cashman said. “He just dominated all sides of the ball during February and March, and that bodes well obviously for him as we move forward.”

Volpe was selected out of high school with the 30th overall pick in the 2019 draft from Delbarton School in New Jersey. He passed up a college commitment to Vanderbilt to sign with the Yankees.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get into the organization,” Volpe said. “This day, this feeling, this moment was kind of what I’ve worked my whole life for when I made that big decision.”

“Right now it’s crazy,” he added. “I don’t even know what lies ahead but Thursday I just want to go out and play, and have fun.”