14 February 2020 06:31

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Baseball demanded a pound of flesh from the Houston Astros, who for months showed little remorse for a sign-stealing scandal that rocked the sport and tainted their 2017 World Series win over the Dodgers. And owner Jim Crane's contention that Houston's theft of signs "didn't impact the game" only inflamed the anger of fans and insulted the intelligence of players from teams the Astros vanquished in the 2017 postseason — the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Dodgers. Waiting for reporters in the team's spring training clubhouse were all six remaining position players from that 2017 team — Altuve, Bregman, shortstop Carlos Correa, first baseman Yuli Gurriel and outfielders George Springer and Josh Reddick — as well as ace pitcher Justin Verlander. Each stood at his locker and answered questions for 30-40 minutes in what amounted to a group mea culpa the Astros hope will start the process of regaining the trust of opposing players and fans. Players would not discuss specific details of their high-tech scheme, which came to light publicly in November when the Athletic published a story in which former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers' alleged that the 2017 team used electronic equipment to steal signs during games, a violation of baseball rules.

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A Major League Baseball investigation determined that throughout the 2017 season and for part of 2018, video room staffers used a center-field camera to steal signs from the catcher. "When it comes to the playoffs, it's loud, people were using multiple signs at the stadium because of rumors of what was going on at the time. "I don't think it's going to be a comfortable few at-bats for a lot of those boys, and it shouldn't be," Clevinger said last month. Major League Baseball found the team illegally decoded signs electronically at Minute Maid Park, relaying them to batters on the field by banging on a trash can in their dugout. He said Thursday he "does not feel it is necessary" to reach out to the Los Angeles Dodgers, whom the Astros defeated for the 2017 World Series crown.

"Our opinion is, you know, that this didn't impact the game," Crane said during a circuitous, 17-minute question-and-answer session. Correa said the team used the trash-can banging scheme primarily in the regular season. In Game 1 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles used multiple signs, Correa said, rendering the decoding system ineffective. People were using multiple signs going into a stadium because of the rumors or whatever going around at the time," Correa said. Gurriel said "no one put a gun to our head" and forced the Astros to steal signs.