In a week in which the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal was in the spotlight again, team owner Jim Crane lamented the long-term effects of the scandal, telling USA Today, “It weighs on all of us every single day.”
A benches-clearing altercation was triggered Tuesday between the Astros and Dodgers when Los Angeles right-hander Joe Kelly threw pitches toward Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa and made mocking facial gestures. Kelly has been suspended eight games for the incident, a punishment he is appealing.
But Kelly’s suspension revived discussion of the lack of punishment to any players or Crane for the scandal in which the Astros used a dugout computer and a trash can to signal pitches to batters en route to the 2017 World Series title — which they won over the Dodgers.
“People are aggravated the players didn’t get suspended,” Crane told USA Today for a story published Friday, “but I didn’t have anything to do with that. That was [commissioner] Rob [Manfred’s] call. Listen, it’s always going to be whatever you want to call it. A black mark. An asterisk. It happened. It’s not good for anybody. It’s not good for the game.
“We broke the rules. We got penalized. We were punished. There’s no doubt it weighs on all of us every single day.”
Manfred suspended general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch for the 2020 season — both were subsequently fired by the Astros — as well as fining the team $5 million and taking away their top two draft picks in 2020 and 2021. But Astros players were given immunity as part of Major League Baseball’s investigation.
“I don’t know what else they want us to do,” Crane told the newspaper. “I mean, you couldn’t do a lot more. We took a big penalty. Rob sent a message. We accepted the message and went above and beyond.
“We’re sorry. We apologized. But no matter what happened, it wasn’t going to be enough. People wanted me out of baseball. They wanted players to be suspended. They wanted everything.”
A new set of rules issued regarding sign-stealing has since been agreed to by MLB and the players’ union. According to a document obtained by ESPN this week, the new rules state that any individual who uses electronic or visual-enhancement devices during the game to identify, communicate or relay the opposing team’s signs will be subject to discipline.
Crane also acknowledged missteps on his part, apologizing for the scandal as a whole and for his comments at a February news conference when he said the sign stealing “didn’t alter the game.”
“We didn’t come off like I wanted to,” Crane told USA Today. “If I had to do it over again, I’d do it differently. The press conference didn’t go well at all. I didn’t handle it as well as I should have.
“I said [the sign stealing] didn’t affect the game. What I should have said is that I can’t impact the decision Rob made not to change history. He was not going to alter the game. He wasn’t going to take away the World Series trophy.”
Crane said he thought the criticism would calm down after this season, even though the pandemic-shortened campaign is being played without fans in the stands to let the Astros know what they think of the scandal. Crane also noted allegations against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox — both teams were fined in 2017 — saying MLB “had a bigger problem than everybody realized.”
“But we’re the ones who took the bullet,” Crane said. “That’s the way it works. I’m not trying to blame anyone else. It was our problem. We dealt with it.”
During his interview with USA Today, Crane also expressed sympathy for former assistant general manager Brandon Taubman. Taubman taunted female reporters by yelling “Thank God we got Osuna” after the Astros’ American League Championship Series win in 2019. Closer Roberto Osuna served a 75-game suspension in 2018 for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.
“Brandon Taubman didn’t commit domestic violence,” Crane said. “He just made a comment. It’s nothing you can defend. … I hated to see him lose his job, but we had no choice.”