Twice during the 2017 season, A.J. Hinch took a baseball bat to a television the Houston Astros were using to steal signs during games, his destruction of the monitors near the dugout an indication the manager did not endorse the illegal scheme that would rock the sport two years later.
If only Hinch had aimed that rage as forcefully and more directly toward his players, who went on to win what is now a tainted World Series title over the Dodgers, maybe he wouldn’t have been on MLB Network on Friday discussing his yearlong suspension and eventual firing in the wake of the controversy.
“Clearly, that wasn’t enough,” Hinch, alluding to his TV bashing, said in a 25-minute interview with Tom Verducci, his first public comments since his Jan. 13 suspension and firing. “When I look back, it’s something I could have done better.
“If you look at my career, I’m much more confident as a manager today than I was in 2017. Where I fell short is I didn’t believe that at the time. Otherwise, I probably would have handled it differently.”
The commissioner’s report detailing its three-month investigation concluded that, with the exception of then-bench coach Alex Cora, the 2017 scheme was player-driven and player-executed.
Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for a year by Major League Baseball and fired by the Astros. Cora, who managed Boston to the 2018 World Series title, was fired, and his Red Sox team remains under investigation for possible electronic sign-stealing.
Carlos Beltrán, a veteran bench player on the 2017 Astros, stepped down as manager of the New York Mets, a position he was named to Nov. 1.
No Astros position player has publicly apologized for the scheme, angering several Dodgers who feel they were cheated out of a championship, but Hinch took full responsibility for his failure to put a halt to it.
“It happened on my watch,” Hinch said. “I’m not proud of that. I’ll never be proud of it. I didn’t like it, but I have to own it, because in a leadership position, the GM and the manager are in position to make sure that nothing like this happened, and we fell short. … I should have had a meeting, addressed it and ended it.”
Throughout the 2017 season and for part of 2018, Astros video room staffers used an outfield camera to steal signs from the catcher and relay them to batters in real time by whistling, clapping, yelling and eventually banging on a trash can at the base of the dugout steps.
Hinch was asked why, when it became clear to him what his players were doing, he didn’t step in and put an end to it?
“I think that’s a big question that I’m going to process over a season-long suspension,” Hinch, 45, said. “I wish I would have done more. I really do. Right is right, wrong is wrong, and we were wrong.”
Hinch did not answer a question about whether the 2019 Astros wore buzzers underneath their uniforms to receive signals on what pitch was coming, a charge the commissioner’s office found no evidence of.
“Well, we got investigated for three months, and the commissioner’s office did as thorough an investigation as anyone could imagine was possible,” Hinch said when asked whether he could assure fans there were no buzzers used. “And I believe them.”
Hinch, who has spent 24 years in the game as a player, front-office executive and manager, said the reason he did the interview was to show people “that I care, that I’m not just blowing it off and shrugging my shoulders and saying that I’m upset because I got caught,” he said.
“It’s much bigger than that. I want my daughters to see me take responsibility for being in this position. I want my wife and kids to be proud of how I handled this.”
Hinch did not hesitate when asked whether he wants to manage again.
“I do,” he said. “I think it will be up to other people to determine whether or not I’m the right fit, but I love managing. I’m not proud of the issues in 2017 with the sign-stealing, but I’m not gonna let that deter me from my hope and desire to have a long career in major league baseball doing what I love.”