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Jim Crane on critics of Astros sign-stealing: ‘I don’t know what else they want us to do’

Astros sign-stealing

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 13: Owner Jim Crane of the Houston Astros reads a prepared statement during a press conference at FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches on February 13, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

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Astros owner Jim Crane sat for an interview with Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Most of the talk was about the Astros sign-stealing scandal and its fallout. It also touched on the Brandon Taubman incident and the team’s acquisition of reliever Roberto Osuna, both of which created tremendous controversy of their own.

Crane’s take on most of it seems to be that he and the Astros are the real victims here, and everyone else should leave them alone already. Really. That’s the vibe he gives off on all of this.

Crane seems to believe that the Astros sign-stealing fallout is overblown and that the public’s anger mostly has to do with how Crane himself bungled the P.R. He allows that his comments after the scandal hit, in which he said he didn’t believe that the sign-stealing affected any games, were misguided. However, even as he says that, he seems to be workshopping an answer he wished he had given that would not have caused as much blowback but which still would have been a deflection:

“We didn’t come off like I wanted to,’’ Crane said Wednesday. “If I had to do it over again, I’d do it differently. The press conference didn’t go well at all. I didn’t handle it as well as I should have.

“I said (the sign stealing) didn’t affect the game. What I should have said is that I can’t impact the decision Rob (Manfred) made not to change history. He was not going to alter the game. He wasn’t going to take away the World Series trophy . . . “If we had to re-run it, we would have had tried to do a better job of apologizing and tried to be more sincere. But you’re under the gun. You try to answer the same question 18 times. It’s not a spot I ever want to be in again.”

So sorry you had to be in that spot, Jim. Truly, you are the person most harmed here. Oh, and you wouldn’t be asked the same question 18 times if you answered it honestly and credibly the first time. You were asked all those times because you said truly, gobsmackingly, implausible things about the effect of the Astros sign-stealing to begin with.Taubman, you will recall, is the former Astros assistant GM who was fired after the American League Championship Series because he yelled “Thank God we got Osuna!” and hurled expletives at female reporter in the clubhouse. This after Taubman had reportedly made multiple complaints about the reporter taking issue with the Astros’ acquisition of Osuna in the wake of his domestic violence suspension. Here is what Crane said about him:

“Brandon Taubman didn’t commit domestic violence. He just made a comment. It’s nothing you can defend. He had a few cocktails. He was happy. There were people constantly coming at him over (Osuna), and he overreacted. Did he do the right thing? No. Everybody makes mistakes. But is he a good, genuine decent person and smart kid? Absolutely. I hated to see him lose his job, but we had no choice.”

Note that Crane, again, frames this as something that happened to the club and to Taubman. Something that had to be done for the sake of public relations considerations which gave him “no choice.” Nowhere does Crane acknowledge what sort of message Taubman’s behavior sent. What sort of atmosphere it created for the people covering the Astros. How obnoxious his behavior was and how poorly it reflected on the organization. If he saw it through that lens Crane would realize that he had the most incredibly easy decision ever in firing Taubman, not that he “had no choice.”

It’s also worth noting here that, yes, one could still communicate personal affinity for a person like Taubman if one wanted to and still note that his behavior was unacceptable and worthy of his termination. He could say “Taubman is a good, genuine decent person and smart kid,” but he made a big mistake and the behavior and attitude he displayed that night were in direct conflict to the values of the organization. Crane, however, views this solely through a prism of his affection for the guy. It’s abundantly clear that he would not have fired him if the story didn’t get out. He’s not sorry that it happened. He’s sorry they got caught.

The thing that led to the Taubman incident, of course, was the acquisition of Roberto Osuna, who committed a heinous act of domestic violence. It was an acquisition that went over very poorly with the public and the press and completely contradicted what his own General Manager, Jeff Luhnow, had said was a “zero tolerance” policy for domestic violence on the club. Here’s Crane talking about that now:

“We didn’t anticipate the Osuna thing would catch that much heat. But when it did, the players were concerned. I told the guys on our team, ‘Listen, we made the decision. He paid his price. We think he deserves a second chance. If he screws up, he’s out of here. You don’t have to worry about it.’ After that, it was fine. That’s with the players. Not so much with the public. It was just a lightning rod of a subject.”

That he didn’t realize they’d catch that much heat speaks to how little they truly thought about domestic violence as a subject that mattered to the team’s fans and the baseball community at large. And again, his words here are all about how much hell he and the team caught. There is no reflection about what employing Osuna means or an acknowledgment that it remains alienating for many fans.

Crane then went on to talk about Rob Manfred’s finding, in the Astros sign-stealing report, that defects in the Astros front office culture was a common thread to these missteps. Crane is not buying it. He calls them all isolated incidents and implies that he and the Astros have been unfairly given the black hat by the public.

Take from that what you will, but one thing you can’t take from it is anything approaching reflection upon the scandals in which the team has found itself in the past three years. The Astros sign-stealing. The Taubman thing. The Osuna signing. He does not seem to be interested in any of that at all.

Follow @craigcalcaterra