JUPITER, Fla. -- Cardinals hitting coach Jeff Albert, who worked in the Astros organization from 2013-18, said he was neither involved with nor aware of Houston’s sign-stealing scheme while he was with the club. Albert addressed the media on Wednesday afternoon with his first public comments since the 2017 Astros were implicated in a report by the Office of the Commissioner.
Albert was the Astros’ Minor League hitting coordinator in 2017 and was promoted to the Majors in 2018 as the assistant hitting coach. He said he did not see evidence of sign-stealing when he was in the dugout in ’18.
He also said it “would be news” to him if his name came up as part of the scandal.
Still, he understands the questions and the connection.
“Because you’re part of the team in 2018, and you’re in the clubhouse,” Albert said after the Cardinals’ first official workout of Spring Training. “But that part would be news to me, because I don’t feel like I was participating or doing or even asked to do something unethical or that had issues with integrity in the game.”
Albert cooperated with the investigation and had one phone interview with the Commissioner’s investigators in November, shortly after news of the scandal broke.
“The biggest thing I can say is, first of all, I spoke to the Commissioner's Office as part of that process, trying to basically participate there and cooperate as much as possible,” he said. “It was a pretty short conversation from my perspective. There’s not tons of information from my side, but I understand the interest in the story and the association with the team at the time, so I understand questions about that.”
Albert had multiple conversations with president of baseball operations John Mozeliak and manager Mike Shildt about the allegations, assuring the two that he did not play a part in the scandal. The Cardinals’ front office explored Albert’s role with the Astros, along with the success the Astros had as one of the top offenses in baseball.
One of the reasons the Cardinals hired Albert was to revamp the organization’s approach to hitting from the Majors to the Minors. In December, Mozeliak said Albert’s success with Houston’s player development, as well as his history with the Cardinals -- he was a hitting coach in Class A Advanced Palm Beach from 2009-12 -- contributed to his hiring last winter, not just that he was the assistant hitting coach for a successful Major League offense at the time.
Albert said his experience with Houston in 2017 and 2018 was “overwhelmingly positive,” and he doesn’t think his career accomplishments, especially in regard to player development, are tarnished by what has been reported.
But with the report comes the question of culture, and Albert said on Wednesday that he is unsure if he could have said anything if he did see something happening.
“I think that would have been really tough,” he said. “I understand whether it’s from different players, staff members, whoever the case may be. I could go back to that time and I do think that would have been a tough position to be in. I didn’t feel like there was any -- looking around, conversations with staff, players -- I didn’t feel like I was watching or witnessing anything that was out of the ordinary. That was my experience with my time there in 2018.”
Albert repeatedly said on Wednesday that he had no knowledge of what was transpiring with the sign-stealing. But when he was asked if he should have known, he briefly paused.
“That’s a great question,” he said. “Yes or no -- probably yeah. But I don’t feel like I had, looking back at that time, reason to go around asking about [it]. … I don’t feel like, looking back, I was skeptical of, ‘Was this guy doing something?’ Because the character of the group and the things that were going on, like I said, were not something that would make me question what was happening.”