AJ Hinch Speaks (Yet Says Very Little) About the Sign Stealing Scandal

If you’ve turned on MLB Network or ESPN in the last 36 hours, you’ve likely seen at least a snippet of Tom Verducci’s interview with former Astros manager AJ Hinch. In the interview, Verducci didn’t shy away from questions regarding the sign stealing scandal, and Hinch avoids answering what we really want to know takes responsibility for not putting a stop to the cheating. Over the course of about 25 minutes, Hinch says a lot of words, yet very few of them answer our (many) questions. Watch the two part interview below… Or just skip ahead for my interpretations:

Hinch feels responsible for not putting a stop to the sign stealing, as he was in charge of the team.

He says at least eleventy-billion times that as the man in charge of the 2017 Astros, he should have put a stop to the sign stealing. He clearly isn’t going to place blame on anyone else or shy away from the fact that he should have told the guys to stop, except….

This doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s taking full responsibility.

Hinch is making it clear that the scheme wasn’t his idea or his doing. But he’s also not saying who should be looked at further. Sure, he told us a few times that took a bat to the monitors on two different occasions. But he also never told the team to stop what they were doing. Wouldn’t one think that by destroying the monitors with which they used to steal signs, that mean he’s telling the team to stop? Is he saying that he didn’t have any control over his team and that it was the fault of the players (or coaches like Alex Cora)? Or was it more of a symbolic way to say ‘hey I tried to stop it.. sort of… so I tried to do the right thing, aren’t I a good guy?’

Verducci should have pressed this – like who kept setting it all back up after the monitors were (allegedly) destroyed? Is he saying that (former GM) Jeff Luhnow was responsible? (He later says he wasn’t given the memo to stop by Luhnow). Or did the players just use all of their tech savvy ways to rewire a bunch of monitors? You know, because they’re all trained in IT wizardry….

He admits to hearing the banging and whistling, and that he wishes he would have put a firm stop on it.

When he’s watching the video from September 2017, he says it hurts.. a lot. I’m not entirely buying that. He said a few times that he wasn’t confident enough as a manager in 2017 – which I take to mean he was in fact ok with the banging and whistling. The Astros kick-ass 2017 made him look more competent at his job. If you ask me, he should have trusted his players to win games without stealing signs because they were (are) good. And now their legacy is completely tainted. And before you tell me that everyone steals signs, it’s always been part of the game… Yes. That’s true. But usually signs are stolen by eagle-eyed baserunners at second, which is fair game, not by an elaborate camera system.

He doesn’t throw anyone specific under the bus.

He doesn’t sell out any of his coaches or players, he keeps the focus on what he, Mr. AJ Hinch himself should have done. He doesn’t even say anything specific regarding his feelings toward (whistleblower) Mike Fiers or responding to Dallas Keuchel’s acknowledgement/apology. When asked about his players having to address it, he dances around what he thinks they should do to address/admit to things. He brings it back to himself (again), which seems like a stand up move to take the blame and not deflect….

Except it’s more to save his own ass.

It’s clear that he wants a manager job when this suspension is over and the dust settles, and the whole scandal is a distant memory. He’s not going to get anywhere if he’s a snitch or doesn’t stay in line with MLB’s findings.

He avoids any responsibility or admission outside of the 2017 season.

When asked about the 2019 ALCS and the Yankees, he points out that the investigation and findings are limited to just between 2016 and 2018 regular season. He and Verducci talk about his ALCS press conference in which he calls the whistling allegations a ‘joke’, and that it’s ‘ridiculous’… he says the allegations he was asked about in that press conference were specific to Game One, and in 2019. And that the investigation was specific to 2017. He was going to defend his players, and he sure as hell isn’t going to open any further cans of worms about the 2019 season.

He skirts around the question regarding the use of buzzers as an alert system.

When asked about the allegation of using buzzers under the player jerseys, he talked in plenty of circles but didn’t answer the question. He says that they were investigated for three months, and investigated very thoroughly. That wasn’t a confirmation or a denial. He’s not going to put anything else out there that hasn’t been addressed by MLB’s findings.

He won’t say that the 2017 Astros season was (or was not) tainted.

When Verducci asks if the 2017 Astros legacy is tainted, Hinch begins talking in circles (again), and he’s not confirming/denying anything. He can’t (won’t?) answer this one. He doesn’t know what would have happened if he’d just stopped it right away and the season played out as usual. He’s got regrets… would have should have could have.. blah blah blah.

He wants us all to know that suspension is going to be torture for him.

When asked about the suspension, he starts laying it on thick again about owning his part in everything. He’s Mr. Baseball. He’s baseball 24/7. He lives and breathes baseball….

Why is he laying it on so thick? He wants back into the majors. There will always be teams looking for managers, especially managers with the record he had. Hey, even on the road the Astros were really, really good during the scandal. He’ll use that, along with the fact that he didn’t sell anyone out (i.e. didn’t answer questions), to get back into the good graces of Commissioner Manfred and the teams that fire their managers at the end of the 2020 season.

Don’t be fooled, when he’s talking to teams after the season and his suspension is done, he’ll also point out how Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran were the real masterminds when they’re up for the same jobs he’s going for in 2021. And, also don’t be fooled, he’ll have his job lined up before the last game of the World Series is played. He’ll have his job lined up as soon as a team or two are mathematically eliminated from the post season and the GMs are looking to fire their managers.

He’s REALLY sorry.

He’s sounding like a politician now. He’s so sorry for what he did to his family and his players and Astros fans. He cares. He’s real. He’s relatable. He wants to restore the integrity of the game. My god, might he be eyeing a presidential bid in 2024?

What say you, readers? Leave a comment below.