FORT MYERS, FLA. – Marwin Gonzalez acknowledged Tuesday that he participated in the sign-stealing scandal during the Houston Astros’ World Series-winning season of 2017.
The 30-year-old utility man, who played seven seasons in Houston, signed a two-year contract with the Twins before last season.
“I’m remorseful for everything that happened in 2017, for everything that we did as a group, and for the players that were affected directly by us doing this,” Gonzalez said Tuesday from a lobby at Hammond Stadium, a day before Twins pitchers and catchers report to camp.
The Astros used a system of video sign stealing that often involved players banging on garbage cans to let teammates at the plate know what pitch was coming.
Major League Baseball did not take away Houston’s title, but suspended manager A.J. Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow, who were then fired by owner Jim Crane.
Alex Cora, a coach with Astros in 2017, managed Boston to the 2018 World Series title. The Red Sox are under investigation for a similar sign-stealing scheme, and Cora has already been fired. The Mets also have parted ways, after only two months, with their new manager, Carlos Beltran, who played for Houston in 2017.
Gonzalez confirmed he participated in MLB’s investigation.
“I wish I could take it back and do it a different way,” Gonzalez said, “but there’s nothing we can do.”
When asked if the Astros could have won the title without cheating, Gonzalez said, “That’s hard to say. That’s hard to speculate. I still think that we had one of the best teams in the last decade.”
Gonzalez had his best season with Houston in 2017, hitting .303 with 23 home runs and driving in 90 runs. He hit 15 of those home runs at Minute Maid Park, but he hit better on the road (.326) than home (.282).
When asked how concerned is he about his 2017 season being viewed differently because of the scandal, he said: “I can’t control that. I wish I could answer you. All I know is that I’m focused on this year, and I’m preparing the same way as I prepare every year.”
His batting average dropped to .247 in 2018 before the Twins signed him as a free agent. Last season, Gonzalez hit .264 with 15 home runs, but was limited to 114 games because of right hamstring strain in late June and an oblique strain in late August.
The native Venezuelan is the first position player from the team to issue a formal apology. Pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton also have apologized. All three are former Astros, while the current Astros are sure to be peppered with questions as they report to spring training.
“They become a second family,” Gonzalez said of his former teammates. “I think that’s the way it is with every team, not just us. But I try to talk to them all the time and we have a great relationship.
“They’re going to get booed. Hopefully they can get through that. I know they have a great team, too, and I hope to face them in the playoffs. That means that both teams are going to do good. They have great talent, too.”
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli spoke with Gonzalez before the news conference and said the entire clubhouse supports him.
“Marwin wanted to take ownership of everything going on and to stand up here and speak for himself and I think he did a fine job,” Baldelli said. “We had a chance to talk to him and I think he feels badly about what happened. Not just because of the ramifications right now, I think he feels badly that it took place and wishes he could do it over again. Again, him standing up here and being accountable is certainly something he’ll be very proud of.”
Gonzalez indicated he would speak to new teammates Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda, who played for the Dodgers when they lost to the Astros in the 2017 World Series.
“I’m focused on this year, and I’m preparing the same way as I prepare every year,” he said. “Every player does that. They put in the most work they can in the offseason to improve, and that’s the only thing I can control.
“I can’t control how people think of me. I can control how hard I work, and that’s the way that I prepare for this season.”