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Crane leads Astros apology for sign-stealing scandal

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane, speaking, along with team members Alex Bregman and José Altuve.

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane led a team-based apology February 13 for its role in the electronic sign-stealing scandal that continues to envelop Major League Baseball. But Crane denied the cheating efforts made a material difference in the club’s run to the 2017 World Series title. 

Marking the most-direct statements to date by the club for their role in the scandal, Crane appeared at the club’s Spring Training camp in Florida with new manager Dusty Baker, and star players José Altuve and Alex Bregman.

“I am really sorry about the choices that were made by our team, the organization and by me,” said Bregman, who did not detail what those choices were. “I have learned from this and hope to regain the trust of the fans…We as a team are totally focused on moving forward to the 2020 season.”

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred last month levied a large-scale package of discipline against the Astros for their role in improper sign stealing using electronic means, including a $5m fine and the loss of high-round draft picks. Since then, several reports have suggested the efforts to steal signs using live video was even more extensive than previously thought. 

The scandal has also cost numerous executives and coaches connected to the Astros their jobs, including former club general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch. 

Crane insisted the electronic sign-stealing will “never happen again on my watch.” But he also said he did not agree with growing calls around the sport to strip the Astros of their 2017 World Series title.

“Our opinion is that this didn’t impact the game,” Crane said. “We had a good team. We won the World Series and we’ll leave it at that.”

Crane also said he does not believe he should be held accountable for the club’s cheating conduct, something that quickly generated wide rebuke around the game.

“No, I don’t think I should be held accountable,” Crane said. “I’m here to correct it. And I’m here to take this team forward. The commissioner made it clear that we’re not going to go backward, that the championship would stay intact, and I agree with him.”

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone, situated across Florida at his own team’s Spring Training camp, took exception to Crane’s suggestion the Astros’ conduct didn’t affect games. The Astros eliminated the Yankees in the 2017 playoffs en route to the World Series title.

“That’s quite a stretch,” Boone said of Crane’s remarks. “I guess we’ll never know and that’s for people to draw their own conclusion on. Clearly when we’re talking about some of the things that went out, those things have an effect on games. Literally.”

There are no plans by the team or MLB to punish any current players for their participation in the scandal, following an agreement between the league and MLB Players Association to grant players immunity in exchange for their cooperation in the investigation.

Following the club’s prepared remarks, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa delivered a more heartfelt acknowledgment in the clubhouse.

“With the technology, it felt like we had an an advantage. But it was definitely wrong,” he said.

The Astros’ remarks follow similar ones earlier this week from former team member, Marwin González, now a member of the Minnesota Twins.