Former Astros manager AJ Hinch was interviewed on MLB Network last night and, obviously, the topic of conversation was the sign-stealing scandal that cost him his job. He said at least a couple of things of interest.
The first thing he said is one thing I imagine we’ll hear a lot of once the Astros hit camp and all the players and people who are still around the team start talking to the press: some variation of “we can’t really say what effect the sign-stealing had!” Hinch’s version of that was when he said that he “can’t pinpoint what advantages or what happened otherwise” as a result of the sign-stealing.
While I’ll agree that exact quantification is probably impossible, don’t let Astros folks get away with the shoulder-shrugging, play-dumb approach.
This is a team that has spent the past several years either actively or passively cultivating a sentiment which holds that not only can they quantify everything but that they can do it better than anyone else. To suggest, then, that no one can say WHAT effect the sign-stealing had, is dubious at best and, in any event, is not a doubt to which Hinch or the Astros are entitled. At the very least, the fact that they kept up the scheme for months on end, refining it over time, strongly suggests that, yeah, they knew they were benefitting from it pretty handsomely and that they knew how to benefit even more if they put their mind to it.
Maybe the more notable thing Hinch said came when he was asked if the 2017 World Series championship is tainted in light of the cheating scandal. Hinch:
“It’s a fair question. I think everyone is going to have to draw their own conclusions [as to whether the championship is tainted]. I hope over time and the demonstration of the talent of this team and the players and the careers that are being had — we have some of the best players in the entire sport all together on the same team — I hope over time it’s proven that it wasn’t [tainted]. But I understand the question . . . Unfortunately we opened that door as a group, and that question may never be answered. We may never know.”
I agree with him there: people will, in fact, draw their own conclusions, as many already have. How the guys who were on that 2017 team perform going forward may have a lot to say about that for some people. For others — specifically, fans of teams who are not the Astros — nothing will change their minds that Houston cheated, benefited from cheating and that the team’s accomplishments are tainted. There will, of course, always be a contingent of Astros fans who insist that this was either a conspiracy to unfairly single out their team or that, even if it wasn’t, the sign-stealing had no effect. Fans are gonna fan.
Either way, Hinch has now spoken about all of this twice. First when he was suspended and fired and now in this interview. We’ll see how loquacious the Astros players are about it once they hit spring training next week.