Owner Jim Crane is taking a bold approach to defending the actions of the 2017 Astros.
After a lengthy MLB investigation, that 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."
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.
Just a few minutes later, the 66-year-old appeared to contradict himself.
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.
Justin Verlander said that he "wished" he'd "said more." He wouldn't specify what he did say to his teammates that season.
Discipline was handed down by Major League Baseball for Houston’s championship season three years ago, but the Astros fell just short of another championship in 2019. Despite that eventual defeat to the Nationals, 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 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.” He also disagreed with Crane that the confirmed sign stealing back in 2017 didn't have any effect on the events of the games, as did Aaron Boone.
"The commissioner addressed that in the report. I'm confident it's accurate," said Crane. "I discussed it with the players ... I truly believe there were no buzzers. I don't even know where that came from. There's no substance to that whatsoever."
"That’s a lie. Nobody wore buzzers," said Correa. "Nobody wore devices. That story should be killed already."
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.
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.
Gerrit Cole, who joined the Yankees from the Astros this offseason, also discussed the cheating scandal. As a pitcher, he says he didn't know it was going on and didn't feel like he had to apologize for anything.