Two Houston Astros players expressed shame for the sign-stealing scandal that has engulfed Major League Baseball and owner Jim Crane promised greater control, saying that technologically advanced sign-stealing would “never happen again on my watch” as the team opened spring training Thursday in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The remarks came amid calls for the team to be stripped of its World Series victory in 2017 and were the first since the scandal resulted in the firing of General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch.

Astros star Alex Bregman directly apologized in a brief statement at the beginning of the news conference, which lasted less than 30 minutes. “I am really sorry about the choices that were made by our team, the organization and by me,” he said. “I have learned from this and hope to regain the trust of fans. . . . We as a team are totally focused on moving forward to the 2020 season.”

His teammate, Jose Altuve, added, “We had a great team meeting last night and the whole organization and the team feels bad about what happened in 2017. We especially feel remorse for our fans and for the game of baseball.”

The players spoke for less than 90 seconds and declined to take questions, with Crane taking the bulk of the questions.

Dusty Baker, the veteran manager brought in to restore honor to the franchise, pointed to the role technology played in the scandal. “I must admit that when technology gets as advanced as it has become, the boundaries seem to change. The guys said what they did was wrong. Hopefully baseball can help clean up the game and control the technology so this doesn’t happen again.”

Crane, wearing an orange polo shirt emblazoned with the Astros logo, noted that he’d never been the kind of owner who hung out in the clubhouse and admitted that may have to change. “We’ll have better controls in place. Baseball will have better controls in place,” without specifying what those would be because “this came very close to the dugout.” Manager Dusty Baker said he doesn’t know all the facts, because he just got MLB’s report “the other day,” but he says it’s clear the game needs progress from this.

Since news of the cheating schemes broke, teams who lost to the Astros have called for the team to forfeit wins and the 2017 World Series title. Crane was adamant that the team’s victories and 2017 championship remain in place.

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

He also declined to call what the team did in a sport known for using time-honored methods of stealing signs as cheating, saying only “we broke the rules.”

Meanwhile Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, who surrendered a series-clinching, walk-off home run to José Altuve in the 2019 American League Championship Series, provided his first public reaction to the Astros’ scandal Thursday morning, calling Altuve’s actions “a little suspicious.”

After Altuve pounded his slider over the left-field fence at Minute Maid Park, Chapman smiled as he walked off the mound. As Altuve crossed the plate, he told teammates not to rip off his jersey and clutched the buttons with his hands, video of which was widely circulated amid speculation Astros hitters had used buzzers affixed to their bodies to alert them to what pitch may be coming.

“Yeah, I’ve seen that video,” Chapman told reporters through an interpreter at the Yankees’ spring training complex in Tampa. “I think a lot of people have seen that video. It’s a popular video right now. And yeah, if you look at his actions, they look a little suspicious. But at the end of the day, I just don’t know” if Altuve knew what he was throwing.

Chapman, who spoke before the Astros’ news conference, said he believed the Astros’ cheating cost the Yankees a World Series in 2017, when the Astros beat the Yankees in seven games in the American League Championship Series, winning every game at home.

“I believe so,” Chapman said. “It was very close, and everything, all the details that come out, I think it was the extra edge that allowed them to move on.”


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