Astros apologize again for sign stealing, but owner Jim Crane says he shouldn’t be held accountable

The Houston Astros kicked off spring training with another apology for illegal signal-stealing during their 2017 championship run — but don’t expect the owner to disavow their World Series win or feel that he should be punished.

Astros owner Jim Crane and two players expressed remorse Thursday for the scandal during a news conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, where Houston’s preseason training has begun.

“I want to say again how sorry our team is for what happened,” Crane said. “I want to also repeat that this will never happen again on my watch.”

But as reporters pressed him about whether the Astros should retain the 2017 title, or whether Major League Baseball should punish him personally, Crane drew a line, leaning on MLB’s January report that concluded there was no evidence he knew about the scheme.

“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,” Crane said, “and I agree with him.”

The MLB report found the Astros illegally created a system that decoded and communicated the opposing teams’ pitching signs to their own players at home games during their 2017 championship season.

As a result, Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were fired January 13, eventually replaced by Dusty Baker and James Click, respectively.

The team must forfeit its regular first- and second-round selections in the 2020 and 2021 drafts and pay a $5 million fine.

Reporters asked Crane specifically about whether the sign-stealing scheme affected the 2017 American League Championship Series, which the Astros won in seven games against the New York Yankees to advance to the World Series.

“Listen, the Yankees had had a few comments out there. 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.”

Asked to clarify his remark about impact, he cited MLB’s investigation.

“Basically, as the commissioner said in his report, he’s not going to go backwards. It’s hard to determine how it impacted the game, if it impacted the game, and that’s where we’re going to leave it,” Crane said.

Players Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve express remorse

The Astros had a team meeting about the issue Wednesday night, players Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve said.

“I am really sorry about the choices that were made by my team, by the organization and by me,” Bregman said Thursday. “I’ve learned from this and I hope to regain the trust of baseball fans.”

Altuve said “the whole Astros organization and the team feel bad about what happened in 2017.”

Later Thursday, in the team’s clubhouse, a reporter asked Altuve whether the players knew what they were doing in 2017 was wrong.

“Yeah, kind of. And that’s why we feel bad. I’m not going to say to you it was good. It was wrong. We feel bad. We feel remorse.”

Baker, the Astros’ new manager, said at the news conference that the players showed tremendous remorse in Wednesday’s meeting.

“I just want to ask for the world, the baseball world, to forgive them for the mistakes that they’ve made.”

Pitchers and catchers are having their first workout Thursday. The first full-squad workout is Monday, and the team plays its first spring training game February 22.

Some current and former players aren’t impressed

Some current and former professional baseball players didn’t take kindly to the Astros’ news conference Thursday.

“Let us know what pitches are coming and let’s just see how much it ‘doesn’t impact the game,'” Texas Rangers outfielder Willie Calhoun tweeted.

“I’m no expert, but I am a human who understands what remorse looks like. Didn’t really see that,” former third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who last played for Philadelphia in 2018, said on Twitter. “Just some smugness and rehearsed blanket answers.”

Plouffe had kinder words about Altuve’s clubhouse comments about remorse. “Yes, dude. This one is way better. Probably should have led with this!” Plouffe tweeted.