(Reuters) – Houston Astros owner Jim Crane said on Thursday the sign-stealing plot that was in place during their World Series-winning 2017 season did not impact games even as his players apologized for the scheme.
Crane, speaking at the Astros’ opening news conference of Spring Training in West Palm Beach, Florida, also apologized and while he said he does not endorse the actions that took place in 2017 he does not feel the World Series triumph is tainted.
“Our opinion is that this didn’t impact the game,” said Crane. “We had a good team. We won the World Series. And we’ll leave it at that.”
Crane swiftly fired the Astros manager and general manager last month after MLB suspended them each for a year over a system used by the team to steal pitch signs from opposing catchers during the 2017 season.
A monitor was installed near the Houston dugout so players could watch, figure out the signs and hit a trash can with a bat to signal to their batter what type of pitch was coming, MLB said.
When asked whether the Astros were actually cheating when they used video to steal signs, Crane replied: “We broke the rules. You can phrase that any way you want.”
MLB also fined the Astros $5 million, the maximum allowed under the league’s constitution, and docked them first and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.
Remaining members of the 2017 team spoke during and after Thursday’s news conference, where they said their focus is now on regaining the trust of fans.
“There’s no real way to express how much regret we have,” outfielder George Springer, who was named Most Valuable Player of the 2017 World Series, told reporters.
“I regret the fact that we are in this situation today. I feel horrible for our sport, our game, our fans, our city, our organization.”
The results of MLB’s investigation rocked the baseball world during the off-season and is one of the darker moments in the sport’s history.
“I am really sorry about the choices that were made by my team, by the organization and by me,” said Astros shortstop Alex Bregman. “I’ve learned from this, and I hope to regain the trust of baseball fans.”
Six-times All-Star Jose Altuve, who made his MLB debut with Houston in 2011, said at the news conference the Astros held a team meeting on Wednesday evening after a tumultuous off-season.
“The whole Astros organization and the team feels bad about what happened in 2017,” said second baseman Altuve.
“We especially feel remorse for the impact on our fans and the game of baseball. Our team is determined to move forward to play with intensity and to bring back a championship to Houston in 2020.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)