Updated: Feb 24, 2020
Image from The Athletic ()
Holy smokes, this is a disaster.
That's my preface. I'm not sure how else to say it, but the Houston Astros are the worst organization in the whole world at damage control. It's shocking. However, it's been quite the series of events that has taken place in the past week, so let's pick this apart chronologically.
Thursday 2/13 - "Apology"
On a beautiful, seemingly sunny day in Florida, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane gave his 3-minute opening remarks, closing with, "Finally, I would like to personally thank all of our fans, sponsors, and the community of Houston for their loyalty and support." Well, first off, Jim, really bad start here, making it sound like you were the victims. Immediately after this, he threw it over to Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve.
These guys spoke for a total of about a minute and a half. How genuine. Bregman got up to the podium, started to show a bit of remorse and then he pulled a Jim Crane. He said, "I hope to regain the trust of baseball fans" (you won't) and that he, too, wants to "thank the Astros fans for all their support." He closed up by saying "We as a team are totally focused on moving forward to the 2020 season.
Jose Altuve walks up, adjusts the mic to his height, puts his hands on his hips and he really brings it home. "We had a great team meeting last night," he said towards the beginning. The Houston Astros had an entire team meeting addressing this, and this is what you guys came up with? Well done, guys! Altuve, too, closed his remarks by saying that "Our team is determinate to move forward and to bring back a championship to Houston in 2020."
Oh! And I have an idea! Let's throw poor Dusty Baker, who had just gotten hired by the organization, out there to fall on the sword and provide the baseball world with the most genuine apology out of anyone!
Finally, ESPN's Marly Rivera asked the final question about how much of an impact this type of cheating had in every at bat. Jim Crane responded that knowing what pitch is coming in an MLB at bat may or may not be a distinct advantage. Way to wrap it up, buddy.
There are so many things wrong with this apology, it's gross. The most prominent issue is the apology, or the disgusting lack of one. There were a couple "We're Sorry's," but the rest of the press conference was trying to brush the entire situation under the carpet and attempting to convince everyone that it wasn't a big deal.
A second issue is that it just seemed like they were overall confused at their approach to the apology. In other words they didn't know if they were supposed to be sorry or not. Do we fully fess up? Do we pretend that it didn't really make any difference? That team meeting must have been a joke. Own up to what you've done and stop trying to make it seem like everything's alright.
For example, Jim Crane, that's how you're gonna end your apology? By saying that knowing the pitches ahead of time isn't a distinct advantage? The Houston Astros statistically improved in hitting fastballs and breaking balls from the 2016 season to the 2017 season, and they also improved in taking on breaking balls. It was a gross advantage. That suggestion by Crane is false.
Sunday 2/16 - Rob Manfred Press Conference
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred took up the podium on Sunday to field questions about his choice of punishment for the Houston Astros organization. From the outset, he defended his decision. He's been getting a lot of heat for not having stripped the ball club of their 2017 title, and here's what he had to say in response to that:
“The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act.”
That leads us to our next event.
Tuesday 2/18 - Rob Manfred Press Conference… Do-Over
Manfred's ridiculous comments referring to the World Series title as a "piece of metal" didn't go over well with plenty of people, so we're back again with Manfred, so he can apologize for that.
This press conference went much better than Sunday's, but the league still comes out looking bad. He apologized for his metal comment, but he still backed up his weak punishment, and he continued to attempt to move past this whole thing.
That's been a question for me. Why are people trying to brush over this, move on, and look toward the 2020 season for some good baseball? It's not gonna happen. People are still talking about the 1919 Chicago White Sox throwing-games scandal. It's more recent, but people are still talking about Pete Rose. People still talk about Bonds. Why do we think that this is going to blow right over and that we'll be back to good in no time? It can't happen.
Quite honestly, it's just making the league look worse. Manfred is doing what the PGA does. Anytime there is a controversy in golf, or a semblance of a scandal, the PGA whispers their punishment to the villain and then everybody moves on without having any idea what happens. The PGA tries to maintain their image of being a well-mannered, gentlemen's game. Manfred is trying to do the same, and it's not working. The noble thing to do would be to just admit the weight that this scandal holds on the sport and to dole out an appropriate discipline.
What is the appropriate discipline?
1) Strip the Houston Astros of their 2017 World Series Title
The league has seen unprecedented honesty from the players around the league in the past week calling for the trophy/title to be revoked. I don't care if it ends up happening because Manfred was pressured into it or if it was done out of his free will… it's what needs to be done.
2) Punish the players.
In Manfred's official statement it states, "Most of the position players on the 2017 team either received sign information from the banging scheme or participated in the scheme by helping to decode signs or bang on the trash can." It also says that this was a "player-driven and player-executed" scheme. If such is the case, why are the players not culpable? I understand the weak one-year suspensions for the GM and Manager Hinch, but at some point, the players need to be held accountable for this entire thing.
I'm not even going to dignify Carlos Correa and J.J. Reddick and their outrageous, childish tirades by writing about them on this extremely popular website, so boom, take that.
All in all, I know that this was a lot to unpack. But that's only because this is a heavy and massive deal, despite what Robert Manfred and the Houston Astros will have you think.