Exactly one month after Houston Astros finally issued something resembling an apology Thursday morning. Astros owner Jim Crane, new manager Dusty Baker, and star players Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman held a press conference at the team's spring training complex to discuss the scandal., the
"I want to say again how sorry our team is for what happened. I want to also repeat this will never happen again on my watch," Crane said in a prepared statement. "... We're apologizing because we broke the rules."
Current Astros who were part of the 2017 World Series championship team, which includes Altuve and Bregman, and others like George Springer and Yuli Gurriel, held a meeting Wednesday evening to discuss the scandal and presumably the steps they will take moving forward. Baker and Crane called the meeting productive.
"At that meeting last night, the players showed tremendous remorse and sorrow and embarrassment for their families, the organization, the city of Houston, and for baseball," Baker said. "I just want to ask for the baseball world to forgive them for the mistakes they've made. We're looking forward to an excellent season this year in a great town that's a great baseball town. We want to bring a championship back."
Thursday's press conference was heavy on canned remarks and deference to the commissioner's report, and very short on contrition. At one point Crane said, "I don't think I should be held accountable," and noted the commissioner's report said he had no knowledge of the sign-stealing operation. The buck doesn't stop with the owner, apparently.
Later on, Crane said he did not believe the sign-stealing impacted the game, only to contradict himself a few moments later. See for yourself:
"Our opinion is 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."
Listen to Thursday's Nothing Personal with David Samson for more on the Astros press conference.
The press conference came after Astros pitchers and catchers reported to spring training Wednesday, though the club restricted media access on reporting day. Customary clubhouse and field access was not allowed and parts of the facility were roped off as well.
Here are other notable moments from Thursday morning's press conference.
Altuve, Bregman apologize
Altuve and Bregman both delivered prepared statements and did not take questions. In fact, they were ushered away after their statements and did not remain for the entirety of the press conference. No other Astros players were present.
"I am really sorry about the choices that were made by my team, by the organization, and by me," Bregman said. "I have learned from this and I hope to regain the trust of baseball fans. I would also like to thank the Astros fans for all of their support. We as a team are totally focused on moving forward to the 2020 season. Thank you."
"We had a great team meeting last night and I want to say the whole Astros organization and the team feels bad about what happened in 2017," Altuve added. "We especially feel remorse for the impact on our fans and the game of baseball. The team is determined to move forward and play with intensity, and bring back a championship to Houston in 2020."
Altuve and Bregman were both asked about the commissioner's report at Astros FanFest last month.and . Crane said Altuve and Bregman were "caught off guard" by the questions at FanFest, which is a lame excuse. What did they think they'd be asked about?
Crane blames management for poor leadership
Over the last few days and weeks, it has become clear the blame is being laid on those no longer with the Astros. Manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow were suspended and fired, and former bench coach Alex Cora and former player Carlos Beltran stepped down from their managerial positions with the Red Sox and Mets, respectively.
"The leaders enabled, condoned, and did not stop actions that happened," Crane said. "I agree that our players should not be punished ... This is a great group of guys who did not receive proper guidance from their leaders."
Between saying the players should not be punished and that he personally should not be held accountable, Crane has placed all the blame on Hinch, Luhnow, Cora, and Beltran. It's awfully convenient. Everyone involved in the scheme is no longer with the organization and those still with the team shouldn't face consequences.
Crane doesn't feel need to reach out to Dodgers
The Yankees lost to the Astros in the 2017 ALCS and several Yankees players, , said they feel cheated out of a World Series. When asked about that, Crane gave his, "Our opinion is this didn't impact the game," answer.
Later on, Crane was asked whether he feels a need to apologize to the Dodgers, whom the Astros beat in the 2017 World Series.. On Thursday, Crane essentially doubled down, saying he has no plans to reach out to the Dodgers to apologize.
"I don't feel it necessary to reach out to the Dodgers," he said.
Crane says there's 'no substance' to buzzers rumors
Over the last few weeks rumors have circulated that Astros players have worn buzzers or other devices as part of a more modern sign-stealing scheme. Rather than bang on a nearby trash can to relay signs, the wearable device would buzz to let the hitter know what pitch is coming. Crane stopped short of a categorical denial but rejected the premise.
"The commissioner addressed that in the report. I'm confident it's accurate," he said. "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."
In the clubhouse Thursday, Carlos Correa offered the strongest denied to date regarding the team's alleged use of buzzers.
Carlos Correa categorically denied the Astros were wearing buzzers. The strongest denial issued to date.— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) February 13, 2020
"No one wore buzzers. That's a lie," Correa said on MLB Network. "I want to speak the truth. It's just straight up false. No one wore anything."
Other Astros apologize
The Astros clubhouse opened to the media following the press conference -- the clubhouse is always open prior to spring workouts, though obviously the circumstances were very different Thursday -- and several players offered more sincere apologies than what was offered at the press conference.
"There's no real way to express how much regret we have, how much remorse we have," Springer said. "I'm sorry we're in this situation today. I regret the fact that we are in this situation today. I feel horrible for our sport, our game, our fans, our city, our organization, the way the our team is being viewed."
"I showed up (in an August trade in 2017) and once I spent time there and understood what was happening, I wish I'd have said more," Justin Verlander said. "Looking back, I can't go back. I can't reverse my decision. I wish I had said more and I didn't. For that, I'm sorry."
"No one put a gun to our head," Gurriel added. "It would be a lie to say that one or two people are responsible. We are all responsible."