- After having third baseman Alex Bregman and second baseman Jose Altuve speak briefly, Astros owner Jim Crane and new manager Dusty Baker took questions.
- Many felt the Astros handled the press conference poorly, with Crane saying he didn't think the scheme impacted the game, players shouldn't be punished, and the Astros were apologizing for breaking the rules.
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On Thursday, the Houston Astros held a press conference with team owner Jim Crane and new manager Dusty Baker to publicly apologize and address the cheating scheme that has rocked MLB.
While the Astros did technically apologize, the press conference delivered a convoluted message about who was responsible for the scheme, why it wasn't stopped, and how it impacted the game.
The scheme blew up in November 2019, when former pitcher Mike Fiers admitted to The Athletic that in 2017, the team had a camera in centerfield that relayed video of the opposing pitcher and catcher into a hallway outside of the Astros dugout. Astros players would watch the TV looking for signals, then hit a trashcan to tip off batters to off-speed pitches .
The press conference began with Astros third baseman Alex Bregman and second baseman Jose Altuve making brief statements to apologize for the scheme and express their desire to move forward.
MLB investigated the scheme and ultimately suspended GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, fined the Astros $5 million, and docked them first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.
Players were granted immunity for speaking to MLB for the investigation. The only other people to be punished so far have been former Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora and former New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran, both of whom were with the Astros in 2017 and found to have played a part in the scheme. Both were fired by their respective teams Beltran before he even coached a game with the Mets.
On Thursday, Crane downplayed the impact of the scheme, saying it didn't impact the game.
"Our opinion is, this didn't impact the game," Crane told reporters. "We had a good team, we won the World Series. We'll leave it at that."
Moments later, when a reporter pressed Crane on the idea that it didn't impact the game, Crane responded by saying he never said it didn't impact the game but then downplayed the scheme's impact. Crane said determining the effect of the sign-stealing on the game was "almost impossible."
Crane was asked if the plot could be called cheating. He said: "We broke the rules. You can phrase that any way you want."
"These are a great group of guys who did not receive proper guidance from their leaders."
Crane said he took measures to discipline the team by firing Luhnow and Hinch. However, he appeared to deflect blame when asked about why he was unaware of the scheme.
"I don't go down to the locker room very often. I'm not involved in that operation," Crane said. "The people that I put in charge of that operation, I'll make sure that I have someone that's accountable moving forward. And we'll be checking constantly, and we'll have some controls in place to make sure it doesn't happen again.
"If I had known about it, I would have done something about it."
The fallout from the scandal has continued into spring training. Members of the New York Yankees have expressed bitterness over losing the Astros in the 2017 American League Championship Series.
Mike Bolsinger, a former pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays, is suing the Astros , claiming he lost his job after giving up four runs on four hits and three walks to the Astros in 2017.
"I don't know if I've had a worse outing in my professional career," Bolsinger told USA Today's Nancy Armour . "I remember saying, 'It was like they knew what I was throwing. They're laying off pitches they weren't laying off before. It's like they knew what was coming.' That was the thought in my head."
Several in the sports world on Thursday criticized the Astros' handling of the press conference.
At the end of the press conference, Crane was pressed by a reporter on why the Astros were apologizing if he believed the cheating scheme didn't impact the game.
"We're apologizing because we broke the rules," he said.
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- A former MLB pitcher is suing the Houston Astros, saying their cheating led to a 29-pitch, 4-run outing that ended his major league career
- The first female coach in MLB history didn't realize she had been interviewing for the job for a month before the Giants offered it to her