As pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training for the Dodgers and other MLB teams, the Houston Astros had a press conference scheduled to address and formally apologize for cheating.
As Spring Training represents the turning of a page to that of a new season, I was set to write a piece about me personally forgiving the Houston Astros. Jim Crane and 99% of the 2017 Astros changed my mind.
The press conference turned into a complete train wreck and yes, I’m specifically thinking the train at Minute Maid Park.
For starters, the apologies by Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve were scripted and didn’t feel genuine. I get it, these guys aren’t public speakers and could’ve been uncomfortable, but it’s amazing how genuine and comfortable they felt in front of the camera in 2017 when they were swinging a “hot bat.”
Dusty Baker’s comments were nice and leader-like material, but ultimately just those of a new manager trying to leverage his reputation to reset the opinion baseball fans have of his new players. Let’s not forget though, he’s managed a different type of cheater before.
Dusty Baker managed Barry Bonds. The Astros didn’t hire him to fix the corruption, they hired him to manage it. https://t.co/01ciJmjsNZ
— Frank López ?? (@BeisbolFrank) February 13, 2020
For all intents and purposes, the Astros should’ve stopped there. Letting Jim Crane answer the questions at the end is where it really crumbled. His demeanor was pompous, arrogant, and entitled. He was the only speaker of the morning that did not approach the podium to speak. Instead, he remained seated like a king refusing to stand before his subjects as he read his statement and answered questions.
During the Q&A he made his ridiculous “it didn’t impact the game” remark before moonwalking on that statement a minute later, when pressed he refused to admit the Astros cheated, he dismissed “culture” issues, and stated that he should not be held accountable. The Q&A ended following a gut-punch question from ESPN’s Marly Rivera as can be heard below:
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) February 13, 2020
The press conference was followed up by clubhouse interviews of Astros players and it was much of the same. Lots of coached “buzz” words were used, “remorse” and “remorseful” being the most popular. “Sorry” and “apologize” were used frequently as well, so long as they were used in context with “for our actions” or “for what happened”. Carlos Correa came the closest to full blown admission and believable sorrow, but quickly lost credibility after attacking Cody Bellinger’s comments on the subject.
Carlos Correa speaks out, ripping Cody Bellinger, passionately defending José Altuve and saying the Astros deserve their 2017 title. Story: https://t.co/uAtl48SVxB
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 15, 2020
Nothing screams lip service like getting defensive after your “apology”. As a whole, the Astros fell short.
The team consensus is they still earned and deserve the World Series title and that they believe they weren’t alone in their pursuit of having an “edge”. According to Vinnie Duber of NBC Sports Chicago, former Astros starting pitcher, Dallas Keuchel stated,
“We’re always going to be World Series champs because we were talented and, to me, we earned the right to be World Series champs.”
“Just because stuff came out about the 2017 Astros doesn’t mean other teams weren’t doing illegal stuff. It just means we were the ones that were caught.”
Keuchel went on to say,
“But ultimately it’s up to the individual to show remorse or try to move on. I chose the remorse route because, personally, I felt that was what was owed. I felt like I owed it to my family and that’s how I was raised.”
The word “remorse” means “deep regret or guilt for a wrong committed”. I have no doubt they feel remorse for certain aspects of the 2017 season. Guilt that their actions led to the firing of their manager, regret that it cost Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran their managerial positions, but mostly I think they are confusing the word “remorse” with “embarrassed”. The Astros are embarrassed that they got caught. Embarrassed that it taints their title and their own worth. They’re embarrassed that they are on the wrong end of the spotlight. People don’t buy their apology because its apathetic. Most of the “apologies” that fans have heard are dripping with a sense of “Fine! I’m sorry! There, I said it! Are you happy now?!”.
Baseball’s Underlying Problem
Baseball has always had an accountability issue. No one ever says sorry. You’ll never hear, “Yes, I used PEDs. I knew it was wrong, but thought it’d speed up my rehab and I that I could get it out of my system before the next test. I screwed up and I’m sorry.”
Or, “Yes, I, as the Commissioner of Baseball knew of the cheating suspicions, but neglected to put a stop to it until a whistleblower came forward. My inaction was wrong and I’m sorry. I will act with more urgency in the future.”
Likewise, you’ll never hear, “Yes we cheated. It tarnished the legitimacy of the games, World Series, and even ourselves. It likely changed the course of careers, salaries, and even other player’s self-confidence. We cheated fans across the world of the game’s authenticity. We cheated the game and legacy of baseball as well as ourselves. For this, admit our guilt and sincerely apologize. We submit ourselves to the penalty already bestowed and ask forgiveness from everybody that our behavior impacted. We are sorry.”
Maybe the game is too macho, or maybe it’s too cowardly, but lack of accountability is the culture. Culture has to change from the top down. Commissioner’s office to the owners, to the front office, to the field level. If Rob Manfred isn’t saying he screwed up, Jim Crane certainly won’t and neither will anyone else downhill from there.
Personally, I want to move on. I was ready to forgive, after all, we forgive to release ourselves from the burden of carrying the wrongdoing against us. Unfortunately, the Astros keep re-opening the wound. Giving us a new burden.
Justin Turner on talking about the 2017 World Series: “It’s like tearing off a scab.”
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) February 14, 2020
So, I’m not forgiving and I’m not forgetting, but I am looking forward. I need to try anyway. Spring Training represents the turning of a page, hello 2020 Dodgers.