Sports Take: Astros win the World Series, lose their press conference

Houston Astros' Alex Bregman, right, delivers a statement as Astros owner Jim Crane listens during a news conference before the start of the first official spring training baseball practice for the team Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla. Associated Press

By Stasya Hopp | Reporter

The Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal has been described as disrespectful, detrimental to the game of baseball, disgusting and disappointing. The Thursday press conference in which Astros team owner Jim Crane issued a public apology has also been described as disappointing and as a public relations debacle.

Crane, Astros manager Dusty Baker, Astros third baseman and shortstop Alex Bregman and second baseman Jose Altuve appeared at the press conference. The player’s apologies seemed insincere, scripted, lacking emotion, and there was no clear, unified message during the press conference. Crane was reluctant to take responsibility and even explicitly admit wrongdoing.

During the 2017 regular season and playoffs, in which they won the World Series, and during part of the 2018 regular season, the Astros were found to have used cameras to document opposing catchers’ signals to the pitcher and communicated their opponents pitch type to their batters by banging on a trash can in a particular code.

Crane was unprepared for the press conference, conveying a carelessness about a serious cheating scandal surrounding his team. Crane said early in the press conference that sign-stealing “didn’t impact the game. We had a good team, we won the World Series, and we’ll leave it at that.” Minutes later a reporter questioned if while talking about the Yankees Crane had said he felt like this didn’t impact the game, and what he meant by that statement. Crane replied, “I didn’t say it didn’t impact the game.”

The Astros would not have participated in sign-stealing if it didn’t impact the game. The purpose is to gain an advantage the other team doesn’t have. An unfair advantage that doesn’t abide by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (an agreement between the Major League Baseball Players Association and Major League Baseball expressing rules of employment).

Players on the field attempting to decode the catcher’s signs and communicate them to the batter to gain a tactical advantage is fair play but using off the field communication through technology is not. The use of electronic devices or even binoculars in the dugout is illegal according to a directive dating to 2001.

The Houston Astros sign-stealing was cheating, and if it had an impact on their 2017 World Series win, they should be stripped of the title. New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge said the Astros World Series win means nothing and was unearned because they cheated. In Thursday’s press conference, Crane refused to say the team cheated and instead said, “we broke the rules, you can phrase that any way you want.”

Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman and outfielder Cody Bellinger told ESPN Crane’s apology and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s punishment was weak. He claimed Jose Altuve stole the MVP from New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge in 2017 as well as the World Series title from the Dodgers that same year.

Bellinger is not the first, nor will he be the last to have an issue with not only the apparent cheating that occurred during the Astros 2017 season but their poor apology which seems to only be rubbing salt in the wound. The issue has left the baseball field and reached a national community. Even Los Angeles Lakers Lebron James posted on Twitter about the ongoing situation. James wrote, “Listen I know I don’t play baseball but I am in Sports and I know if someone cheated me out of winning the title and I found out about it I would be [expletive] irate!” He urged the commissioner to fix the issue “for the sake of Sports!”

The careless attitude with which the Astros officials approached the press conference indicates they are comfortable and unworried about their position as a team despite cheating that potentially affected their World Series win.

If stripping the team of their World Series title ensures no one participates in this form of cheating, and discourages others from handing serious allegations with negligence, it should be done. A win by cheating is no win at all.