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Astros owner Jim Crane avoids questions about sign-stealing scandal at MLB owners' meetings

Astros owner Jim Crane during batting practice before

Astros owner Jim Crane during batting practice before Game 5 of the World Series against the Nationals on Oct. 27 in Washington. Credit: AP/Patrick Semansky

ARLINGTON, Texas — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane declined to answer questions about allegations that his team used electronics to steal signs and otherwise cheated on their way to a 2017 World Series title, while Yankees president Randy Levine said he could not comment on the the possible cheating until Major League Baseball had completed its investigation.

"I leave it to the commissioner to get to the bottom of it," said Levine, who was on hand at the MLB owners' meetings at the Live! By Loews hotel. "I haven't even heard anything recently. I'm sure him and his team will get to the bottom of it and find out what it's all about."

The Yankees lost to the Astros in seven games in the 2017 ALCS, the season where the team is specifically accused of cheating. Asked if that frustrated him, Levine reiterated that they "have to see what the results of the investigation are before we make any comment."

Crane, who was also at the meetings, was approached by reporters but quickly shut down questions. “If you want to talk about baseball, I’ll talk about baseball,” he said. Before he could take any questions, he added: “What else do you want to talk about? Any other issues?”

As he spoke, a sheriff from the Texas Tarrant County police department cut through the assembled media and escorted Crane away. Crane spent close to half an hour in the lobby, though media were barred from approaching him by hotel management and police, who often stood between him and the collected press.

The treatment was not exclusive to Crane. Earlier in the day, the hotel's managing director, Scott Nassar, along with police, attempted to remove assembled reporters. The officers, who were armed and in uniform, were off duty. Reporters who were not hotel guests were removed from the lobby, and those who were guests were threatened with removal if they approached owners without the owner’s acknowledgement and welcoming. Additionally, they were barred from taking photos.

It was a chaotic backdrop to this year’s meetings, where the cheating scandal quickly became the focal point.

On Tuesday, during a tour of the new Globe Life Field, commissioner Rob Manfred briefly addressed the cheating investigation. There, he told reporters that the investigation was a "most serious matter," and that it would be very thorough. He added that currently, he believes the Astros to be the only team involved. The original story that broke the scandal, published in The Athletic, alleged that other teams also cheated.

Additionally, Manfred — who will speak again on Thursday — will likely also have to answer questions about his proposal to cut 42 minor-league teams in a vast restructuring. The Mets' Double-A affiliate, the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, as well as the Yankees' Single-A affiliate, the Staten Island Yankees, are both reportedly in danger of dissolution.

Earlier this week, Rumble Ponies owner John Hughes, as well as various elected officials, criticized the commissioner's plan.

Levine said it was too early to say that the Staten Island Yankees were in danger (Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner did not attend this year's meetings).

"I'm actually completely unaware of it, and as far as I was told today, there are negotiations going on and a proposal is being made and no specific teams — there's been no decision on any specific team," Levine said. "Staten Island has a beautiful ballpark. It's a nice place, so it was news to me."

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