Owner Jim Crane is taking a bold approach to defending the actions of the 2017 Astros.
After a lengthy MLB investigation, that 2017 team was found to have cheated using an electronic sign-stealing system. Players in the dugout would bang on a trash can to relay to hitters which pitch was coming. This went on throughout the Astros' 2017 season, which ended in their first World Series title.
Crane spoke to the press from the beginning of Houston's 2020 spring training on Thursday, where he made the stunning claim that the cheating "did not impact the game."
"Our opinion is that this didn't impact the game," said Crane. "We had a good team, and we won the World Series. We'll leave it at that."
It will almost most certainly not be "left at that" though. This seems like a bit of a preposterous claim from Crane, as the whole point of cheating like the Astros did is to impact games by giving yourself an unfair advantage at winning them.
AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were the two figures in the organization who were punished by the league. Both Hinch and Luhnow were suspended for a year and then subsequently fired by the Astros. Players involved did not receive any punishment, nor did Crane, who oversees all as the owner of the franchise.
Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman were much more contrite when they spoke to the media on Thursday.
Altuve said that "the whole Astros organization feels bad about what happened in 2017," while Bregman said that he was "really sorry" about "choices that were made by my team, by the organization and by me." Both players mentioned that they wanted to earn the trust back of the other players and fans around the league.
The discipline was handed down by Major League Baseball for Houston’s championship season three years ago. The Astros fell just short of another championship in 2019, but Altuve’s home run to beat the Yankees in the ALCS has come under increased scrutiny.
On Thursday, Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman spoke from the team’s minor league complex in Tampa, Florida. Chapman called Altuve’s behavior, after hitting that series-winning homer, “suspicious.”
Chapman noted that he still took responsibility for conceding the two-run shot. When reporters asked the pitcher whether he thought Altuve knew what pitch was coming, Chapman said “that’s a good question for him.”
Spring training is officially getting underway around the league, but it’s clear the Yankees are still angry about the revelations of this offseason. Out of all the teams in baseball, New York can probably feel most aggrieved about the cheating, and alleged cheating, that has gone on.
In 2017, the Astros team that was punished for cheating beat the Yankees in an ALCS that went seven games. In 2018, the Yankees were eliminated in the playoffs by the Red Sox, who have also faced accusations of electronic sign stealing. And, of course, there was the mysterious Altuve home run that knocked the Bronx Bombers out in 2019.
Altuve’s home run was called into question after video circulated on social media showing the infielder telling his teammates not to rip his jersey off as he approached home plate. Altuve later explained this on Fox Sports’ broadcast as something he tried to do because his wife got mad the last time his shirt came off on TV.
Aaron Boone spoke about all of this in a wide-ranging press conference on Wednesday. Boone admitted that he wasn’t convinced the Astros were playing fair in 2019 either.