When the Astros open the clubhouse to members of the media today, they will be marking the start of what figures to be a season-long apology tour for their sign-stealing transgressions. Their first public acknowledgment of the elaborate, electronically aided scheme they concocted to net them wins and, yes, the 2017 World Series will be orchestrated and, by all accounts, stage-managed down to the last word. The grapevine has them doing their mea culpas together, an offshoot of the meeting they had with franchise owner Jim Crane the other day. If nothing else, it’s a logical move; the last thing they need as they prep for their upcoming campaign is a disjointed front that will just keep wounds from healing for good.
The problem, of course, is that the Astros’ deliberate cheating wound up hurting just about everybody else. Considering the extent of their faux pas and its effects in a zero-sum situation, a collective sorry to simply tick off a public-relations requirement won’t do. Not by a long shot. Their actions paid off by way of a championship and myriad attendant benefits, and did harm by depressing the accomplishments and earning capacity of others. If they are to truly show remorse, they need to address what they did with rawness absent from prepared statements. They can’t do what they have to do with the benefit of coaching.
Granted, brandishing candor in full humility won’t be easy. Yet, it’s precisely the Astros’ willingness to face difficulty head on that will underscore their sincerity. There can be no escaping what they stand to face from here on. In every visit to any park of any opponent, they will be subject to hearty boos and derisive chants, some of which they may not actually deserve. Through it all, they would do well to bow their heads in shame. They’re due for much, much worse given how they trampled on the rules and spat at the sport, reaped dividends from their willful ignorance of fairness, and sanctimoniously cried foul when they were called out.
For those in the spotlight, there is a natural predisposition to control the narrative. The Astros understandably want to move on, but in a way that protects their brand. Unfortunately, they’ve lost any ascendancy to dictate the terms by which they can account for their missteps. And, no matter what, things will get worse before they get better. They may even find themselves back at the start of their process when Major League Baseball hands down its decision on its probe of the Red Sox’s own cheating mess. There’s no escape, though. They made their bed. They now get to lie on it.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.