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Tipsheet: Half-hearted Astros apology leaves cheating cloud over team

Tipsheet: Half-hearted Astros apology leaves cheating cloud over team

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Houston Astros owner Jim Crane squirmed on the hot seat Thursday while addressing his franchise’s elaborate “Codebreaker” sign-stealing scheme.

His incoherent performance at spring training drew national ridicule. While some Astros players offered more sincere apologies and demonstrated genuine contrition, Crane demonstrated why the Astros organization is rotten from the top down.

Crane was only too glad to let former Astros employees Jeff Luhnow, A.J. Hinch, Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran take the fall for the wholesale Astros cheating.

“No, I don’t think I should be held accountable,” Crane said during his lame new conference.

And . . .

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

See what we mean? That attitude did not play well in the court of public opinion.

Here is what folks were writing about the Astros:

Gabe Lacques, USA Today: “They finally came clean, kind of, and for that, the Houston Astros should be commended. Baseball’s worst cheating scandal of this century burned all winter and devoured an $11 billion industry forged on hope and the concept of fair play. And so Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, Yuli Gurriel and Josh Reddick owning up to their actions provided some relief. Yet, this unprecedented first morning of spring training felt like anything but closure. It will provide little satisfaction for fans of the teams the Astros defeated on their way to the 2017 World Series title, and likely will inspire further rage from the major league pitchers victimized by their electronic sign-stealing. And above all, it seemed to reinforce a general distaste fans hold for the barons who run Major League Baseball, and a general distrust in the men who run the game at its highest level. The greatest takeaways from this Astros scandal as its embers burn, with the potential for flames to ignite once again? Never admit to anything more than they have on you. If you don’t like what you’re going to see under the hood, don’t pop it open. Find a scapegoat and shirk as much responsibility as you can.”

Mike Axisa, “Thursday's press conference was heavy on canned remarks and deference to the commissioner's report, and very short on contrition. . . . Between saying the players should not be punished and that he personally should not be held accountable, Crane has placed all the blame on Hinch, Luhnow, Cora, and Beltran. It's awfully convenient. Everyone involved in the scheme is no longer with the organization and those still with the team shouldn't face consequences.”

Michael Baumann, The Ringer: “It’s easy enough to lie (or spin, to use the common political euphemism) when the facts are unknown and just one person is in charge of the message. But as more people become available for questioning, keeping a fictional story straight becomes parabolically more difficult. The target here is a baseball-consuming public that—with the exception of a few Astros partisans whose allegiance to team outweighs allegiance to facts or ethics—has not only been whipped up into a continental frothing outrage, but also knows Houston’s party line to be bogus. Anything less than abject and transparent contrition would have been rejected out of hand. Unsurprisingly, the Houston businessman was not prepared to make an absolute apology; throughout a torturous press conference, Crane equivocated, deflected, and dissembled at every turn. His time at the microphone was as shocking and dramatic as the Astros’ riveting run to the 2017 World Series, with highlights to suit the tastes of every fan.”

Stephane Apstein, “This nonsense is an insult to fans. It’s also an insult to the players (Crane) claims to be protecting. It’s infantilizing to suggest these high-functioning adults, among the best in the world at what they do, were too stupid to identify cheating. It was their idea in the first place, and they knew it was wrong when they did it. They acknowledged as much Thursday. It was also clear at the time: In September, White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar appeared to notice the banging. The Astros panicked, according to MLB’s investigation. They pulled the monitor off the wall and hid it in an office, then soon had it replaced with a portable monitor on a table that could be put away after games. You don’t hide evidence of behavior you believe to be legal.”

Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports: “Crane is correct about one thing. Houston had a good team that season. Just how good the Astros would have been if they hadn't been stealing signs, no one will ever know. That’s one of the greatest impacts on the organization and its players. Maybe Houston deserved the World Series that year. No one will ever believe it, though — other than Jim Crane (perhaps) and rabid Astros fans. Here’s who also had a good team. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who lost in Game 7 of the World Series to Houston. The New York Yankees, who lost in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series to Houston. You think one stolen sign doesn’t matter? In a razor-thin World Series where Houston won Game 5 by a 13-12 score in 10 innings? One at-bat — one single off an offspeed pitch the hitter knew he could sit on — goes the other way in either game and maybe it’s the Dodgers who win the 2017 World Series.”


"I don’t want my kids, I don’t want my brother, I don’t want my family members or people who follow me to think that it was right to cheat to be successful. ... What we did in 2017 was terrible. We all know it, and we feel really bad about it."

Carlos Correa, feeling shame over his team's wholesale cheating.

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Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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