HOUSTON — A week filled with fines, suspensions, firings and impromptu news conferences as a result of their sign-stealing scandal ended awkwardly in Houston on Saturday, with the Astros meeting and greeting fans and media at their annual winter festival.
Two of the team’s biggest stars — Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman — took center stage: one for his unfazed confidence, the other for his terse tone and tenor.
Houston second baseman Jose Altuve said the Astros will be in the World Series again while pushing back on the idea that the team’s cheating went beyond the sign-stealing detailed in MLB’s report earlier this week.
“Believe me, in the end of the year, everything will be fine,” he said. “We’re going to be in the World Series again. People don’t believe it, we will. We will. We made it last year, we were one game away of winning it all.”
Altuve was the AL MVP in 2017, and since the sign-stealing scandal broke, some have questioned whether he deserved the award. In recent days, he has also been accused of wearing an electronic device under his jersey to tip pitches, which he vehemently denies.
“You know, we all know that some people made that up,” he said. “And like I said, the best thing to happen to me was the MLB investigate that and they didn’t find something.”
While Altuve didn’t have a problem answering numerous questions about the scandal, Bregman, Houston’s third baseman, refused repeated attempts by reporters to get him to address what happened and kept repeating variations of the same phrase.
“The commissioner made his report, made his decision, and the Astros made their decision,” he said. “And I have no further comment on it.”
After being pressed on if he plans to discuss the sign-stealing in the future, Bregman finally gave an answer that didn’t seemed as rehearsed. “I think in the 2020 year,” he said, “our actions will speak louder than our words.
Altuve and Bregman were the only two stars at FanFest who were part of the 2017 championship team. Many of the other big names who helped the Astros win their first title — including World Series MVP George Springer, ace Justin Verlander, who was the ALCS MVP, and shortstop Carlos Correa — did not attend the daylong event at which fans interact with players.
Meanwhile, Altuve was consistent is spinning the storyline forward. With spring training less than a month away, he wants the focus on baseball.
“I have two options. One is cry, and one is go down and play the game and (perform) and help my team,” he said. “And you know what one I am going to do.”
MLB’s investigation of Houston began after former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, who played for Oakland last season, told The Athletic about the team’s scheme to steal signs.
Houston manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for a year by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs during the Astros’ run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. Team owner Jim Crane then fired both Hinch and Luhnow. Manager Alex Cora left the Red Sox on Tuesday after the report identified him as the ringleader of the sign-stealing scheme when he was the bench coach for the Astros in 2017.
The Astros were fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.
The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center-field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.
“It’s a tough situation, and as a team, we have to stay together and go through this as a team like we’ve been doing, always,” Altuve said. “We have to talk about it at spring training and try not to let things in the past distract us for next year.”
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