The Houston Astros will open their exhibition season Saturday night against the Washington Nationals in a rematch of last fall's World Series. Much has changed in the three-plus months since the conclusion of the Fall Classic, a series the Nationals won in seven games, with the Astros' years-long sign-stealing operation becoming public knowledge.
The Astros have a new manager and general manager since they last took the field, but owner Jim Crane remains in place. Crane sent season-ticket holders a note on Friday. Here's what it said, according to Greg Rajan of the Houston Chronicle:
To our Valued Season Ticket Holders,
As we get ready to play our first Spring Training game, I want to reach out to all of you and say thank you for your support through an extremely difficult offseason.
I know this has been hard on each of you, the City of Houston, and all baseball fans throughout the country. People in our organization broke the rules. We were wrong, and we let you down. I want to reiterate what I said to you on January 13th -- I am very sorry.
Since I found out about the sign stealing issues, I have been focused on making changes within our organization to ensure that this type of thing never happens again. We will regain your trust, we will continue to give back to our community, and we will make Houston proud again.
I know how difficult it is for each of you to see so much negativity directed at our beloved Astros. Unfortunately, we deserve that criticism. Our actions have left an indelible mark on baseball. I want to assure you that I recognize the impact to our fans and to the game of baseball. I promise you that, as hard as I worked to rebuild the Astros into a championship caliber team, I will work even harder to repair our reputation.
As we begin this season, I am encouraged by the outpouring of support that we have received from our fans, the sponsors, and the entire Houston community. I am optimistic about our future. Dusty Baker and James Click are men of exceptional character who are committed to bringing another championship to Houston. They will be leading a great group of players who will be taking the field in search of redemption.
We ask that you forgive us and that you continue to support our players and this organization.
We greatly appreciate each of you. We look forward to seeing you in Houston for Opening Day.
The Astros were punished by Major League Baseball for improperly using technology to steal signs. Jeff Luhnow and AJ Hinch were fired after being suspended for a season, while the organization was fined $5 million and stripped of four upcoming draft picks.
Crane, for his part, had an uninspiring press conference at the onset of camp. During that press conference, he remarked that he didn't think he should be held accountable.
Of course, it could be argued that Crane should've never been permitted to purchase the Astros in the first place. As the Wall Street Journal noted on Saturday, Crane's "logistics business faced allegations of bigotry, sexism and systemic discrimination. His company was later accused of price fixing and defrauding the U.S. government to profiteer off the Iraq war."