Crane: Players will apologize in Spring Training

Astros owner also hopes to name new manager next week

January 22nd, 2020

HOUSTON -- The Astros will apologize for the role they played in the recent sign-stealing saga when they assemble in West Palm Beach, Fla., next month, team owner Jim Crane said while addressing reporters at the Houston Sports Awards in downtown Houston on Tuesday.

Crane, noting the criticism select Astros players have taken for not making more contrite public statements at FanFest last weekend, said the players will "come out with a strong statement as a team and apologize for what happened and we'll move forward."

Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman were the only marquee players from the 2017 World Series champion team to attend FanFest last Saturday. They each addressed the media but said little to clarify the role they and others played in the sign-stealing scandal from 2017 and part of '18 that led to Major League Baseball's suspensions -- and subsequent dismissal by Crane -- of president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch, in addition to other penalties.

Bregman opted to repeat variations of a pre-planned statement that said, in essence, that MLB made its decision, the Astros made theirs, and he'd have no other comment on the matter. Altuve, while slightly more forthcoming, did not offer insight as to what role the players had in the sign-stealing scheme that led to the sanctions.

The only denials Bregman and Altuve issued came when they were asked if they wore electronic buzzers under their jerseys to steal signs. MLB also said there was no evidence this took place.

Crane, during a red-carpet procession at the Houston Sports Awards, said he noted the criticism the players received for not being more open at FanFest and said the communication will change when the team assembles for Spring Training.

"A couple of guys that have been interviewed have been holding back a little bit," Crane said. "We need to get them a little more time to get together in Spring Training. Everybody's split up [geographically]. We're going to sit in a room and talk about it and then we're going to come out and address the press -- all of them will address the press either as a group or individually.

"Quite frankly, we'll apologize for what happened, ask forgiveness and move forward."

Astros pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Feb. 13, while position players report Feb. 16. The first full-squad workout is scheduled for Feb. 17.

Managerial interview search expands

Crane said he plans to interview former Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister on Wednesday. He has expanded the managerial search to more candidates, and while not specifying names, Crane said he'd like to narrow the field down to three or four options by the weekend and have a decision made by early next week.

"We'll get it done early next week because we need to get down to Spring Training," Crane said. "We want to have the team set and have time to organize what they want to do and move forward."

The 56-year-old Banister, a University of Houston alum, managed the Rangers from 2015-18. He joins a crowded field of managerial candidates that includes Dusty Baker, John Gibbons, Buck Showalter, Will Venable and Eduardo Perez, who interviewed for the job on Tuesday.

Asked specifically about Baker, who is among the most experienced of the group, Crane said he was impressed with the interview and "he's right at the top of the list."

"We're excited about Dusty and a couple of other guys we're still going talk to," Crane said. "We're going to end up with someone great that will blend well with the team and then we'll get focused on the GM. We're doing that simultaneously."