Baseball didn’t react well to the Houston Astros press conference Thursday morning.
Two Astros players offered apologies and team owner Jim Crane said he didn’t think the sign stealing by his players changed the outcome of games.
The reactions actually started earlier this week as pitchers and catchers reported for spring training throughout Florida and Arizona. Among the angriest so far has been relief pitcher David Robertson, now with the Phillies, who called the situation a disgrace.
Robertson had been among the most effective New York Yankees relievers in 2017, but was hit hard by the Astros in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.
“I got roughed up in Game 6,” he said. “And I felt like in that game I threw as well as I’ve ever thrown in my entire life. I had some pitches that got hit that I was a little shocked by and some pitches that didn’t get swung at that I was a little shocked by. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about what we know now. But it all comes together now and, you know, I’m upset about it, that’s for sure.
“I’m never going to get 2017 back. I can’t say moving forward I’ll never get to pitch in a LCS again, but I’ll never get that season back with that group of guys and that opportunity to win a World Series. Like I said, I’m still upset about it. I don’t want to say something I’m going to regret but I’m definitely not happy about it.”
Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman was on the Yankees teams that lost to Houston in the 2017 and 2019 playoffs. He gave up the walk-off home run that moved the Astros into the 2019 World Series, where they lost to the Washington Nationals.
Chapman was particularly perturbed by Crane’s assertion that stealing signs didn’t have an impact on the outcome of the games. Chapman told ESPN: "When you know the signs and you know what's coming, especially at this level of baseball -- we have some of the most talented baseball players in the world -- as hitters, if they have an edge and advantage in knowing what's coming, it's going to make them stronger. Is that the sole reason they won the World Series? I don't know. But what I can say that when you have an advantage like that, it's definitely going to make you a stronger team."
Chapman did compliment Twins outfielder Marwin Gonzalez, who was with the Astros in 2017 and 2018, for his apology earlier this week: "It takes courage to do that. That's an example for all of those guys. At the end of the day, the findings of the investigation are there, there's no hiding about that. I think they should follow his steps and take some actions.”
Oakland manager Bob Melvin drew a distinction between the press conference and some of what Houston players said afterward. “I caught the press conference, which I thought might’ve been a little short on remorse. But I heard once they got into the clubhouse it was a lot different theme.”
“Nothing was said,” Oakland pitcher Sean Manaea told the San Jose Mercury-News. “They skated on by and haven’t taken responsibility for their actions.”
Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole, who signed a nine-year, $324 million contract after pitching for Houston in 2018 and 2019, said he was unaware of anything that happened during the 2017 season -- or afterward.
He said that if his Yankees teammates bring it up, "I'll just give them an honest answer, which is I had no idea of any of it going on and I didn't see any of it. So, I really don't think I have much to apologize for."
Texas Rangers outfielder Willie Calhoun offered a reaction on Twitter that likely spoke for many players who faced the Astros.
And Yankees manager Aaron Boone wasn’t buying what the Astros were selling.