From this day forward, there will be only one score pertinent to the Houston Astros and that’s the score opponents and Major League Baseball fans want to settle with them.
“I ask the baseball world to forgive them for the mistakes that they made,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
We know now the Astros brazenly cheated the game by developing and implementing a sophisticated system that enabled them to steal signs and deliver them to their hitters.
Now we will find out how truly sorry the Astros are about it and whether anyone in the game really believes them.
The first step happened on Thursday at their spring training base in West Palm Beach, Fla. The organization reserved the day for contrition, its owner Jim Crane, and top stars standing before the cameras and notepads delivering their apologies.
“We feel bad and we don’t want to be remembered as the team that cheated to get a championship,” shortstop Carlos Correa said. “What we did in ’17 was wrong. …I’m going to be honest with you: When we first started doing it, it almost felt like it was an advantage. … But it was definitely wrong. It was definitely wrong and we should have stopped it at the time.”
The apology tour did not begin well. Speaking from a prepared script at a choreographed press conference, Crane initially contended the sign-stealing operation had no effect on the outcome of games in 2017, particularly the World Series they won against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Our opinion is that this didn’t impact the game. We had a good team. We won the World Series and we’ll leave it at that,” he said.
Of course, that’s a preposterous notion. Knowing what pitch was coming certainly put their hitters at a great advantage and the Astros used it to win the world championship.
Speaking on the MLB Network on Thursday, Kevin Millar offered an interesting point of view about the scandal. Millar believes the Astros did not initially think what they were doing was illegal. Instead, they were just excited about the sinister technological ingenuity that had created a competitive advantage for them.
Perhaps. But that opinion was not shared by the teams they used it against. Well aware the Astros had something up their sleeve, aware the Yankees and Red Sox had already been investigated, they complained and MLB rewrote the rules about how teams could use video equipment. But it was not until pitcher Mike Fiers spoke to The Athletic that MLB took the complaints seriously enough to take action.
In many ways, the sign-stealing scandal is the worst thing that’s happened to MLB since the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series.
We’d argue this is worse than Pete Rose, because he never bet on his team to lose. And this is much worse than the use of performance enhancing drugs since those bulked-up dudes still had to rely and their skill and instincts to hit the ball. They may have hit it farther, but they didn’t have the advantage of knowing what was coming.
“It’s definitely an advantage,” Correa said. “I’m not going to lie. Knowing what’s coming, you get a slight edge.”
It’s going to be a very difficult season for the Astros. They almost certainly will be greeted by hostile crowds on the road. They will encounter new media in every city interested in asking the same question they’ve already answered a hundred times before. And they could face retribution on the field from aggrieved pitchers. It could get very ugly.
Not one player or manager around MLB has excused the Astros for what they did. In fact, they have been outspoken in their criticism. And there’s no way to know how long the animosity will last as long as players from that 2017 team remain in Houston.
“Look, I think it’s important for the front office, the players to take responsibility for what happened, and to express remorse to the fans, the other teams and people who are really invested in our great game,” commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday.
Every single player on the 2017 Astros will carry this weight with them for life. They will either be accused because of their complicity or they will be blamed for not speaking up loud enough to bring the cheating to a halt. They have added an indelible asterisk to their names.
“I don’t want my kids, my brother, my family members, people who follow me to think that was right. To cheat to be successful is not right,” Correa said. “What we can do now as players is focus on what we can control from now on, and make sure we show everybody we’re good players, the kind of players who work hard every single day. That what we did in ’17 was terrible. We all know it. We feel really bad about it. But moving forward, we want to show everyone that we’re talented and that we can the game.”