The Astros' second baseman José Altuve during a press conference in West Palm Beach, Florida. Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Astros had three months to craft a thoughtful apology for the team's sign-stealing scandal. Instead, José Altuve and Alex Bregman spoke for a combined 90 seconds — and owner Jim Crane questioned whether sign-stealing even helped his team win games.

The big picture: While baseball grapples with the fallout, don't lose sight of the many other problems Major League Baseball faces as commissioner Rob Manfred enters his sixth season at the helm.

  • Juiced balls: The "juiced" and then "un-juiced" baseball was a central storyline of the 2019 campaign, raising transparency concerns.
  • Angry players: Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer called Manfred "a joke" on Twitter and followed that up with a seven-minute rant about the state of baseball.
  • Unpopular rule changes: In an effort to speed up the game, pitchers will be required to face a minimum of three batters starting this season — a rule change that the MLB Players Association did not support.
  • Minor League cuts: Politicians like Bernie Sanders have been railing against MLB's proposal to slash minor league teams, which will cast a dark shadow over the upcoming season.
  • Labor unrest: Tension between the owners and the MLBPA has been brewing for years and could result in a lockout when the current CBA expires after the 2021 season.
  • Marketing problems: In 2018, only 22% of the American public knew who Mike Trout was. That's not a Mike Trout problem, that's an MLB problem.
  • Drop in attendance: Roughly 68.5 million fans attended MLB games in 2019, which continues a downward trend and represents a whopping 15% decline from a high of 79.5 million in 2007.

The bottom line: This is going to be a pivotal decade for baseball, and it's hard to imagine the 2020s getting off to a worse start.

Go deeper: The Astros' apology tour

Go deeper

Updated 52 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 30,881,522 — Total deaths: 958,493— Total recoveries: 21,119,006Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 6,794,479 — Total deaths: 199,469 — Total recoveries: 2,590,671 — Total tests: 95,108,559Map.
  3. Politics: Testing czar on Trump's CDC contradictions: "Everybody is right" Ex-FDA chief: Career scientists won't be "easily cowed" by political vaccine pressure.
  4. Education: What we overlooked in the switch to remote learning.
  5. Health: The dwindling chances of eliminating COVID-19 — 7 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week.
  6. World: England sets £10,000 fine for breaking self-isolation rules — The countries painting their pandemic recoveries green.

Trump campaign goes all in on Pennsylvania

Trump poster in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

The president's campaign is placing more importance on Pennsylvania amid growing concern that his chances of clinching Wisconsin are slipping, Trump campaign sources tell Axios.

Driving the news: Pennsylvania, which has 20 electoral votes, twice Wisconsin's number, actually has been trending higher in recent public and internal polling, a welcome development for the campaign.

Inside Biden's Supreme Court strategy

Joe Biden enters the hall at the National Constitution Center. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden’s closing argument will shift to a dominant emphasis on health care, turning the looming Supreme Court fight into a referendum on coverage and pre-existing conditions, officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: Biden aides believed they were winning when the race was about the coronavirus pandemic. Now they plan to use the Supreme Court opening as a raucous new field for a health care fight, returning to a theme that gave Democrats big midterm wins in 2018.