Can’t We Just Play Ball? Astros Throw Wild Pitch In PR Strategy

April 13, 2020 | Chris Lynch


Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in this case, hiding out in the dugout), you’ve likely heard about the PR snafu involving the major league baseball club Houston Astros and their getting caught for electronic-stealing of “signs” (they were able to decipher and transmit signals that the opposing teams’ catchers relayed to the opposing pitcher. Ergo, their batters knew what pitch was coming). A huge, and illegal, advantage in the playing of America’s pastime.

As such, the Astros baseball club was fined $5 million by the commissioner of Major League Baseball, docked draft choices for the next two years and the team’s manager and general manager were both suspended for the season (they were subsequently discharged by the club, as well.)

There were no penalties for the team’s players, and the Astros did not have to vacate their 2017 World Series championship and all the spoils that go along with it. Turns out, the team had been stealing signs for almost two (or three?) years until it had the conscience to suddenly ‘stop’ in  late 2018 (just before they played and swept our Cleveland Indians in the first divisional playoff round. Hmm.).

Anyway, why the diatribe? Well, it’s one thing to be caught. Another to apologize (and really mean it BTW!), and another whereas an organization you screw up so proficiently the entire U.S. sporting press screams for you to hire a good PR practitioner:

The Houston Astros had PR companies across the globe pointing and laughing at them.

Andy Nesbitt, columnist in USA TODAY Sports, is attributed the pull-quote taken from his article “I was wrong for calling the Houston Astros cowards, turns out they’re just idiots”

The best writeup of the bunch was by Sports Illustrated’s Emma Baccellieri, Breaking Down the Astros’ Latest Public Relations Meltdown Subtitle: A public relations expert analyzes the Astros’ poor effort to apologize for their sign-stealing scheme.

The expert is Tony D‘Angelo, past PRSA National Chair, and director of Syracuse University’s Master’s program in communications management (note of transparency here, I served with Tony on the National Board back in 2007–09).

His advice is so right on when it comes to handling a crisis – and eventually, we’re all going to find ourselves, our client or our organization in some type of predicament – that I urge you all to click and read through.

Then consider if the Astros were your client, or Jim Crane (Chairman of the Houston Astros) was your boss: What would you do? And taking an intentional pass is not an option.

And BTW, this is at least the third or fourth huge PR screw up for these guys – another good read, from October 2019, is Al Yellon’s feature The Houston Astros demonstrate how not to handle a PR Crisis!  Subtitle: The A.L. Champions are really bad at media and public relations.

Well duh.

Topics: reputation risk management crisis

About the Author
Chris Lynch

Chris R. Lynch APR, Fellow PRSA, Senior Vice President, Falls Communications and Director, Greater Cleveland PRSA Chapter

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