Good at cheating, bad at apologizing: The Astros humiliate themselves again

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

The Houston Astros are good at cheating — it helped them win the 2017 World Series, after all. 

The Houston Astros are not good at apologies — they at first vehemently denied, then acknowledged, then fired people after Sports Illustrated reported in November that an executive bizarrely taunted female reporters after a good performance from a relief pitcher who had previously been suspended 75 games due to domestic violence. 

So maybe we should have predicted Thursday down in Florida. As spring training kicked off, the Astros were going to make their public statements — an apology, even — for stealing signs in an effort to cheat and win the 2017 World Series.

And, boy, the Astros delivered in the kind of clumsy, ridiculous, nonsensical fashion we’ve come to know and expect.

“Our opinion is that this didn’t impact the game,” owner Jim Crane said. “We had a good team. We won the World Series and we’ll leave it at that.”

Ah, no, we won’t leave it at that.

Start with this: If the cheating didn’t impact the game, then what were Crane and the Astros apologizing for?

“We broke the rules,” Crane said. “You can phrase that any way you want.”

Well, they have rules against things that impact the game. And using a secret video feed to decipher what pitch is coming is certainly both against the rules and something that impacts, quite dramatically, the game.

Or put it this way, if the Astros didn’t believe stealing signs impacted the game, then why did they steal the signs? For fun?

“It’s hard to say how it impacted the game, if it impacted the game,” Crane said later in the news conference.

Well, Jim Crane, how about we find out? 

If it doesn’t really impact the game, or it’s “hard to say” how it impacts the game, then this season the Astros should begin informing opposing batters what pitch is coming so we can find out that it doesn’t impact the game. Rather than have the catcher signal to the pitcher, he should just scream it out for all to hear. 

“Four-seam fastball, up and in.”

“Here comes the change …”

Though Houston Astros owner Jim Crane said sign-stealing efforts didn't impact the game, his players — like ace Justin Verlander — likely wouldn't go for a plan to yell out pitch selections for opposing batters to hear. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

It ought to be fun watching how this doesn't impact the game. And then, when advanced analytics people crunch the numbers, ol’ Jim Crane can do a victory lap with proof that he knows more about what impacts a baseball game than all the players and managers who have ever played or managed a baseball game.

So go ahead there, Jim Crane, you own the joint. Tell them to give it a go. It wouldn’t impact a thing. Right?

Crane is correct about one thing. Houston had a good team that season. Just how good the Astros would have been if they hadn't been stealing signs, no one will ever know. That’s one of the greatest impacts on the organization and its players. Maybe Houston deserved the World Series that year. No one will ever believe it, though — other than Jim Crane (perhaps) and rabid Astros fans.

Here’s who also had a good team. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who lost in Game 7 of the World Series to Houston. The New York Yankees, who lost in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series to Houston. 

You think one stolen sign doesn’t matter? In a razor-thin World Series where Houston won Game 5 by a 13-12 score in 10 innings? One at-bat — one single off an offspeed pitch the hitter knew he could sit on — goes the other way in either game and maybe it’s the Dodgers who win the 2017 World Series.

Crane went on to place all the blame on now-fired manager A.J. Hinch and fired general manager Jeff Luhnow. The players, he believes, are faultless.

“Our players should not be punished,” Crane said. “These are a great group of guys who did not receive proper guidance from their leaders.”

Jim Crane thinks his players are idiots apparently. So dumb they didn’t even know that getting tipped off to what pitch was coming was against the rules of a game they’ve played their entire life. 

That’s kind of humiliating to hear from your boss, but whatever.

These are the Houston Astros. Self-inflicted humiliation is what they truly do best. 

Let’s just leave it at that.

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