Tom Verducci’s interview with ousted Astros manager AJ Hinch aired on MLB Network last night. It was a pretty standard mea culpa. Hinch said the blame was his for not putting an end to the banging scheme, that he was ashamed, that he wants to manage again some day, and so on. You can watch the whole thing here, if you’ve got a half hour to kill.
There’s one exchange in there I’d like to focus on. It’s arguably the most important part.
VERDUCCI: Now the hindsight of looking at the Astros. People are looking at the Astros in a very different lens based on the Commissioner’s investigation. Which includes now, in their eyes, the 2019 season. We’ve heard reports about the Astros’ players wearing buzzers underneath their uniforms. That’s how they’re getting the signal, what pitch is coming. I know the Commissioner’s office looked into this and they determined there was nothing to it. Can you assure us that there were no buzzers or anything like that being used?
HINCH: Well the Commissioner – We got investigated for three months. And the Commissioner’s office did as thorough an investigation as anyone could imagine, as possible. I mean I know you mentioned the emails, and the texts, and the messages. And I believe them.
So in response to Verducci asking whether the Astros’ manipulation of the game had taken the next step and gone even further beyond the pale, Hinch did not issue a denial. He did not say “No, we did not use buzzers.” He said that he believes in the league’s investigation, which found no evidence of wrongdoing in the 2019 season. Hinch did not defend himself and his team as much as he hid behind the nine-page PDF that got sent around.
There have long been rumors floating around that the Astros were using some sort of wearable tech to gain an edge during games. Those flames got stoked when Jose Altuve screamed at his teammates to not rip off his jersey and how he immediately dashed into the clubhouse to do it himself following his walk-off homer to win the ALCS, and when something involving some sort of clear tape fell off of Robinson Chirinos‘ bat during the World Series. Then there was the whole incident with the fake Twitter account attributed to Carlos Beltran’s niece, but was revealed to probably run by a much weirder person. In short, the Internet doesn’t exactly trust the league’s stipulation that the Astros were model citizens in 2019, and they already felt that way before last night’s report from The Wall Street Journal that the Houston front office was in on all of this from the beginning.
Hinch’s answer seems awfully odd for a man who was clearly doing this interview to gain favor back to his side and lay groundwork for another managing job sometime in the future. If the Astros absolutely did not use buzzers, one would imagine that Hinch would say simply say so. Is he trying to insinuate that the players may have done so on their own, without his knowledge? That would be absurd. Managers know what’s going on inside their clubhouses.
Moreover, we now know the league report that Hinch is holding up to defend himself isn’t exactly the most accurate thing in the world. The scheme was not in fact player-driven, and Alex Cora was far from the only non-player to be involved with this mess. Did the Houston front office just simply stop developing new cheating methods after they put Codebreaker into action? What exactly does the “dark arts” reference in that 2019 budget spreadsheet that The Journal learned about mean?
There’s something fishy here. I’m not here to tell you that the Astros 100% used those buzzers or that Pepe and Carol don’t really exist. But that answer from Hinch in an interview that was supposed to be all about how he’s really a standup guy who merely lost his way for a while is… odd, to say the least.