WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Contrition, remorse, regret – the Houston Astros expressed it all during an hour of accountability Thursday.
Yet, as the Astros made abundantly clear how sorry they were for a rules-flouting, electronic sign-stealing scheme that boosted their chances of winning the 2017 World Series, there was another point they endeavored to make:
There will be no specific amends made to any specific parties.
Not to the Los Angeles Dodgers or New York Yankees, who they beat in seven-game playoff series in 2017, winning seven of eight games played at Minute Maid Park, home of the most notorious trash can this side of Sesame Street.
Who are the Astros even apologizing to? Everybody or nobody?
“I don’t think we feel the need to reach out to those guys, or anybody for that matter,” says outfielder Josh Reddick, a Dodger during the final two months and playoffs of the 2016 season.
Not to Mike Bolsinger, who has filed a suit claiming their sign-stealing scheme accelerated his career demise after he never pitched again following a rough 2017 outing in Houston.
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Instead, Thursday’s day of atonement was a sweeping, general bouquet to an industry seething at their actions and fans around the world disgusted with their rules-breaking.
“Whatever we’re saying, we’re saying to everybody,” said 2017 AL MVP Jose Altuve, who joined third baseman Alex Bregman in making statements of apology before taking questions from reporters inside the Astros clubhouse. “Alex and I, in our statements, we are not pointing, not selecting who we’re talking to.
“We’re talking to everyone that deserves what we’re doing today.”
That likely won’t sit well in Los Angeles, where Dodgers utilityman Enrique Hernandez echoed the sentiments of teammates and fans when he said at a recent fan festival: “They cheated. They got away with it. They got a ring out of it.”
Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve listen as owner Jim Crane speaks during a news conference Thursday. (Photo: Jim Rassol, USA TODAY Sports)
Nor will it fly in New York, where the tabloids will keep up their ink-by-the-barrel attack on the Astros until further notice, and where the Yankees – admittedly spooked by rumors of Astros malfeasance and highly vigilant about their sign sequences in the 2017 ALCS – will retain a bitter taste from their seven-game defeat.
“It doesn’t feel good,” catcher Gary Sanchez told reporters Tuesday as Yankee camp opened. “As a ballplayer, when you hear something like that, it doesn’t feel good.”
You can see why the Astros would avoid specific apologies. Doing so would be an admittance that their 2017 title should carry an even larger asterisk than the one discerning fans have already attached. Astros hitters know full well which at-bats carried the taint of electronic sign-stealing.
Their flouting of the rules was so blatant that it produced copious video evidence of cheating, via the audible bangs of a trash can in the moments after an opposing catcher flashed a set of signs.
Yet, like the steroid-fueled sluggers of the early 2000s who hid behind the Mitchell Report so long as it didn’t include their name, these Astros will point for time eternal to the eight-page report issued by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.
It was damning, but largely non-specific, a document that appears more incomplete every time a new report emerges with greater detail of the Astros’ cheating. It claimed a few pounds of flesh in GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, who were fired because they and every top baseball official in the game were warned by Manfred that cheating via electronics will carry grave consequences.
But the players skated in the report, receiving immunity in exchange for candor, and surely want to believe Thursday’s acknowledgement will put this behind him.
They are very sorry, you see, to all of you, and also none of you.
“We feel really bad for possibly ruining careers and having that advantage by using technology,” shortstop Carlos Correa said Thursday. “That’s not what we stand for in this organization.
“Going forward, we have to right our wrongs.”
Whatever those are, and whoever they wronged.
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