Altuve (R) and Bregman watch as team owner Crane apologizes for the sign-stealing scandal

Miami (AFP) - Houston Astros stars Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve apologized Thursday for their roles in a high-tech Major League Baseball sign-stealing scandal that has tainted their 2017 World Series title.

Both star sluggers and Astros owner Jim Crane addressed a scheme that involved centerfield cameras, an illegal monitor near the team dugout and players hitting a trash can to signal Houston batters what type of pitch they were about to face.

“I’m really sorry about the choices made by my team, my organization and me,” said Bregman, who hit a game-winning single in the 10th inning of a critical fifth game of the 2017 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I hope to regain the trust of baseball fans.”

American League 2017 Most Valuable Player Altuve said: “The whole Astros organization and the team feels bad about what happened in 2017.

“We especially feel remorse for the impact on the fans and the game of baseball and our team is determined to move forward, play with intensity and bring back a championship to Houston in 2020.”

An MLB investigation into the scandal led to one-year bans for Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. They were then fired by Crane, who tried to defend the Astros’ crown.

“Our opinion is this didn’t impact the game,” Crane said “We had a good team. We won the World Series. We’ll leave it at that.”

Crane has replaced the team’s top management, hiring veteran Dusty Baker as the new manager. Both had an emotional meeting with players on Wednesday before Astros pitchers and catchers reported to training camp for pre-season workouts.

“I want to say again how sorry our team is for what happened,” Crane said. “I want to repeat this will never happen again on my watch.”

The scheme, revealed by former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, led MLB to impose a $5 million fine to the Astros and strip the team of its top two MLB Draft picks in 2020 and 2021.

Former Astros bench coach Alex Cora was fired as manager of the Boston Red Sox, whom he guided to the 2018 World Series title over the Dodgers. A separate probe of possible Red Sox sign stealing is ongoing.

Also hit was former Astros slugger Carlos Beltran, identified as a ringleader of the sign-stealing scheme before his retirement. He had signed a deal to manage the New York Mets but was fired before guiding the team in a single game.

- What ifs haunt Yankees -

The Astros beat the New York Yankees in the 2017 and 2019 American League Championship Series and fell to Cora’s Red Sox in the 2018 ALCS.

“Certainly, I’ve spent time, as I’m sure a lot of people have, wondering all the things that could potentially have been going on, and probably we’ll never know for sure,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

“We’ve had a lot of time to kind of process all this and the range of emotions has been huge. You’re mad, frustrated, disappointed, but you also know there’s a time to move on.

“I don’t really dwell on the things that I don’t really… control. So I look at it now as, it’s time to move on and look forward. And we have a great team.”

Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, a former prospect in the Astros’ organization before being traded to the Braves’ organization in 2015, is among the major league rivals who find the cheating scandal disgraceful.

“This is one of the worst things to happen in Major League Baseball,” he said. “You don’t realize how many people you hurt, not just players, but front offices, managers, coaches, even scouts. You have people second-guessing these scouts if a player is out there getting lit up.

“I hope it all gets settled at the end of the day because it’s pretty sad.”