Astros stick to script on scan­dal

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS -

Alex Breg­man spoke for about 30 sec­onds and said he was sorry, but did not say why. He said he had learned, but did not say what.

On a patch of grass be­tween the Astros’ spring training build­ing and fields, un­der a sun ob­scured by clouds, the star third base­man stepped to a mi­cro­phone at a news con­fer­ence, be­com­ing the first player Thurs­day to apol­o­gize — with­out re­ally dis­cussing with any de­tails — for the sign-steal­ing scheme from the club’s 2017 World Series cham­pi­onship sea­son.

“I am re­ally sorry about the choices that were made by my team, by the or­ga­ni­za­tion and by me. I have learned from this and I hope to re­gain the trust of base­ball fans,” Breg­man be­gan, be­fore thank­ing Astros fans and say­ing he and his team­mates “are to­tally fo­cused on mov­ing for­ward to the 2020 sea­son.” And thus the script was set.

The most eye­brow-rais­ing state­ment came soon there­after, when Astros owner Jim Crane replied to a ques­tion from a re­porter by say­ing: “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.”

Mo­ments later, Crane tried to back­track, say­ing, “It’s hard to de­ter­mine how it im­pacted the game, if it im­pacted the game.”

MLB Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred dis­ci­plined the Astros af­ter he found the team broke rules by us­ing elec­tron­ics to steal signs dur­ing 2017 and 2018. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion found the Astros used the video feed from a cen­ter field cam­era to view and de­code op­pos­ing catch­ers’ signs. Play­ers banged on a trash can to sig­nal to bat­ters what was com­ing, be­liev­ing it would im­prove chances of get­ting a hit.

Man­ager AJ Hinch and GM Jeff Luh­now were given one-year sus­pen­sions by Man­fred; Crane then quickly fired both. MLB didn’t pun­ish any play­ers for the cheat­ing.

Crane and play­ers de­nied that Astros hit­ters used buzzers to get in­for­ma­tion about pitches.

The owner re­peat­edly pointed to MLB’s report in­stead of di­rectly an­swer­ing ques­tions and vowed: “This will never hap­pen again on my watch.”

A day ear­lier, the Astros gath­ered at their fa­cil­ity, bar­ring me­dia from the grounds, and it was ap­par­ent that they mostly agreed on a uni­fied mes­sage.

The talk­ing points be­came clear Thurs­day be­fore the first of­fi­cial work­out of the spring as, one by one, the faces of the fran­chise spoke to the me­dia in the club­house: Breg­man, sec­ond base­man JosE Al­tuve, short­stop Car­los Cor­rea, out­fielder Josh Red­dick, pitch­ers Justin Ver­lan­der and Lance McCullers.

Breg­man’s club­house ses­sion lasted 10 min­utes and he stuck to his mes­sage. So, gen­er­ally, did the oth­ers.

Breg­man, for ex­am­ple, used words like “apol­o­giz­ing” and “re­morse,” but made no men­tion of “signs” or “steal­ing” or “cheat­ing.”

Like Crane, they re­frained from of­fer­ing any sort of apolo­gies to teams or play­ers they had beaten in 2017, specif­i­cally the Yan­kees in the AL cham­pi­onship series and the Dodgers in the World Series.

The most forth­com­ing and sin­cere­sound­ing state­ments came from Cor­rea, who said the sys­tem was not as ef­fec­tive in the post­sea­son be­cause op­pos­ing catch­ers were us­ing mul­ti­ple signs to tell their pitch­ers what to throw.

“We feel bad and we don’t want to be re­mem­bered as the team that cheated to get a cham­pi­onship,” Cor­rea said. “What we did in ’17 was wrong. ... It’s not how we want to be re­mem­bered.

“I’m going to be hon­est: 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.”

Ex­tra in­nings: The Red Sox de­feated LHP Ed­uardo Ro­driguez in salary ar­bi­tra­tion, im­prov­ing teams to 5-1 this year. Ro­driguez will earn $8.3 mil­lion rather than his re­quest for $8,975,000. The 26-year-old was a ca­reer-best 19-6 with a 3.81 ERAin 34 starts last sea­son, when he made $4,325,000. ... Di­a­mond­backs RHP Mike Leake has a frac­ture on his non-throw­ing wrist but still hopes to be ready for the start of the reg­u­lar sea­son. Leake, 32, was 12-11 with a 4.29 ERA last sea­son for the Mariners and D’backs.

JEFF ROBERSON/AP

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