Column: Astros manager AJ Hinch mum about investigation

Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch speaks during the Major League Baseball winter meetings on Tuesday in San Diego.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

The purported victim looked as if he wanted to say more, but exercised restraint.

“Right now, I think it’s unfair for me to make any comment on it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

The alleged perpetrator claimed he wanted to say more, but appeared as if he wanted to be anywhere but here.

“It’s not comfortable,” Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch admitted.

Results of sporting events are registered in definitive terms. In the case of the 2017 World Series, history shows the Astros defeated the Dodgers in seven games.


The validity of that record has come under question in the wake of allegations the Astros used electronic devices to steal signs that season. What was black and white morphed into a shade of gray. A competition that usually ends with a clear winner and loser became as convoluted as any other aspect of human existence.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday the team’s off-season strategy is to focus on signing or trading for players that can make a profound impact.

Dec. 10, 2019

Roberts sounded as if he were still trying to make sense of what happened when he addressed the subject for the first time on Tuesday at baseball’s winter meetings.

Roberts initially declined to comment on the situation, pointing to the Major League Baseball’s ongoing investigation of the Astros.

“Just waiting to see how it all kind of plays out,” he said.

Roberts acknowledged the allegations against the Astros made him think back to some moments from that World Series, which included particularly disastrous pitching performances by the likes of Yu Darvish and Clayton Kershaw. He confirmed the Dodgers suspected the Astros were up to something, prompting his team to take precautions so it wouldn’t have its signs stolen.

At the same time, Roberts said he was surprised by the extent of what the Astros were accused to have done. Former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers told the Athletic the team had a camera positioned in center field in its home games.

But Roberts said that revelation didn’t change how he felt about the outcome of that Series.


“Nothing is going to change it,” he said.

If the Dodgers had won that World Series, it would have marked the crowning achievement for most of their players. Roberts would have been celebrated as a hero who delivered the Dodgers their first championship in 29 years.

“Agreed,” Roberts said. “But regardless of how I feel, it happened. As far as ... my sentiments, it’s just not helpful, really, for anyone.”

Gerrit Cole, the most highly sought free agent, signed a record deal with the New York Yankees despite efforts by the Angels and Dodgers to land him.

Dec. 10, 2019

Roberts said he spoke to Hinch about the situation. Though he wouldn’t divulge the details of the conversation, he maintained he still considered Hinch a close friend.

Roberts was also certain about something else.

A runner on second base stealing signs and relaying them to a teammate in the batter’s box was part of the game. But what the Astros did threatened the integrity of the game.

“Absolutely,” Roberts said.

Roberts’ sentiments were shared by Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers president of baseball operations.

“No question in my mind,” Friedman said.

Speaking at a 20-minute roundtable session that immediately followed Roberts’, Hinch wouldn’t even say whether he felt the use of electronic devices to steal signs constituted cheating.


Upon taking his seat, Hinch joked, “Not sure I’ve ever been so popular.”

By making Hinch their de facto spokesman, the Astros put their best foot forward. He doesn’t share the tone-deafness that plagues many of the others in his organization.

Before taking any questions, Hinch addressed “the elephant in the room,” saying he understood why reporters would want to ask about MLB’s investigation. He said he was cooperating with the probe, but wouldn’t otherwise comment on it.

Asked why he couldn’t speak on the matter, Hinch said it was because he was told not to.

By whom? The league office?

The Angels traded weak-hitting third baseman Zack Cozart and 2019 first-round draft pick Will Wilson to the Giants for cash or a player to be named later.

Dec. 10, 2019

“By everyone I talked to during the investigation,” he said.

He wouldn’t say if he feared his team’s accomplishments being tainted. He wouldn’t say if he was concerned he could be suspended.

As likable as Hinch is, his silence felt like an extension of the hubris that has characterized the Astros in recent years. When the Yankees accused the Astros of whistling in their American League Division Series this year to relay stolen signs, Hinch called the allegations “a joke.” Reminded of that, Hinch said, “There will be a day when I get to address it all, I assure you.”

The Astros were already considered arrogant in baseball circles. They are now also thought of as cheaters.

“I can’t really control what other people think,” Hinch said. “I’m pretty focused on our team.”


Of course, what he said didn’t really matter. Roberts was right. No matter what the managers feel or say, no matter how much contrition Hinch expresses, nothing will undo what happened in the World Series two years ago.