What did you think they were going to say, really?
The Astros held their long-awaited press conference today to discuss their cheating scandal and to give the requisite, disingenuous apology no one was going to accept. The charade was replete with players who tried really hard to look and sounds remorseful, a brand-new manager who inexplicably chose to board the Titanic after it struck the iceberg, and a team owner who could not, for the life of him, get his story straight.
Let’s call this what it was: a show. The Astros put on a show for the rest of MLB and the world. And they couldn’t even do it well. The pre-written apologies read from pieces of paper sounded hollow. José Altuvé maintaining that the Astros would be in the World Series again was infuriatingly cocky. Team owner Jim Crane’s brag that the Astros were the first team to ever win 100+ games in three consecutive seasons was not only in bad taste at a press conference about cheating to win, but factually incorrect. When they were still in Philadelphia, the Athletics won 100 or more games every season from 1929-1931. The Yankees did the same from 2002-2004. With every passing day, it is harder and harder to believe that the Astros’ PR team isn’t a bunch of mannequins at desks.
The entire presser was a runaround, with Crane unable to keep his story straight. He went from saying “Our opinion is that this didn’t impact the game,” to “I didn’t say it didn’t impact the game,” in 55 seconds. Viewers quickly lost track of how many times he uttered a form of “The Commissioner’s report was very thorough,” and his adamance that their 2017 championship was not tainted. But ultimately, he could not hold up under the barrage of questions from the media, and his promise that this would never happen again under his watch, and that he’d make sure to find someone to “hold accountable,” only served to further irritate everyone. Nothing like the team owner of the biggest scandal-makers since the Black Sox saying, “I’m going to make sure the buck stops…. over there!”
The biggest question that the Astros were unable to answer, though, was that if they felt that their ‘rule-breaking’ had not impacted the game, why were they apologizing? And of course, they had no answer, because they did cheat, and it did impact the game. It ruined the careers of opposing pitchers, and cost teams games. The full extent of the impact of their dishonesty will likely never be able to be calculated in full, but it only adds insult to injury for them to maintain, after all this time, with all that we know, that their deceit did not impact the game.
After the press conference came to a merciful end, more Astros players made themselves available to the media in their clubhouse. It was then that a few of them expressed more genuine regret for their actions, and provided more information and insight. One of the few worthwhile takeaways was Yuli Gurriel refuting the claim that former teammate Carlos Beltrán and bench coach Alex Cora were solely to blame: “No one put a gun to our head… We are all responsible.” George Springer, once one of the heroes of the 2017 postseason, said, “There’s no real way to express how much regret we have… I’m sorry… I feel horrible for our sport, our game, our fans.” But he also said he was upset at how the Astros were “being viewed,” which sounds more like he’s sorry they got caught, not sorry they cheated.
At the end of the day, nothing the Astros say will make anyone but themselves feel better. They’re just going to have to accept that they did something abhorrent, and let people be furious and upset. When you hurt someone, you don’t get to decide that you did not hurt them, and you definitely do not get to dictate how long they get to feel the way they feel about it.
If the Astros truly wanted to make amends on a human level, they’d connect with the pitchers whose careers they ruined. They would do more for domestic abuse victims, since they still employ Roberto Osuna and botched the Brandon Taubman situation. And they would, through actions, not more hollow words, attempt to prove to the rest of the baseball world that they truly want to change.
Maybe they’ll do all, some, or even one of these things. I hope so, because they need to actually do their part to heal baseball from the hurt they’ve caused the game and its fans. But I won’t hold my breath.