A.J. Hinch opens up about Astros cheating: I should have ended it

Ex-Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch appeared in his first interview since he was fired from his job amid a cheating scandal that has engulfed Major League Baseball this winter. Hinch made it clear, again and again, that he was shouldering the blame for the sign-stealing scheme that led to his dismissal and the firing of general manager Jeff Luhnow.

Hinch dodged a few questions — like whether the Astros players wore buzzers in 2019, as Twitter conspiracy theorists allege; and whether he thinks his team’s 2017 title is tainted — but he appeared contrite as he spoke to Tom Verducci of MLB Network and Sports Illustrated.

Here’s a clip of the interview, if you missed it:

One of the most fascinating parts of Hinch’s story is that he said — and MLB’s investigation agreed — that he wasn’t fond of the cheating coming from his players and assistant coaches.

He even went so far as to break the TV that players used to decode signs on two different occasions. That led to one of the more candid moments in the interview, as Hinch told Verducci he should have done more. He should have been more direct with the players.

“I hit it. With a bat. I didn’t like it,” he said. “In hindsight, I would have a meeting. I should have had a meeting and addressed it face-forward and really ended it. Leadership to me is often about what you preach. Your pillars of what you believe in. Leadership is also about what you tolerate. And I tolerated too much. And that outburst … I wanted to let people know that I didn’t like it. I should have done more. I should have addressed it more directly.

“I mean, it’s complicated when you’re talking about a team and all the inner workings of a team, but in reality I just feel like I could have done more looking back, especially feeling like the leader I am in 2019 vs. where I was in 2017 and where I’ve grown. But it’s always easier to look back and wish you could have done more.”

Here are some other key quotes from Hinch’s interview:

Hinch on his biggest regret

“I regret so much about that and it’s so complicated and so deep and there are parts that are hard to talk about but taking responsibility as the manager … it happened on my watch. 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 I was in a leadership position. And the commissioner’s office made it very, very clear that the GM and the manager were in position to make sure nothing like this happened — and we fell short.”

Hinch on restoring integrity that he lost

“I’ve had unbelievable conversations with major league managers and some of my players, players around the game, executives … and I want people to know that I care. That I’m not just, I guess, blowing it off and shrugging my shoulders and saying that I’m upset because we got caught. It’s much bigger than that.

“I want my daughters to see me hold up my accountability and take responsibility for being in this position. I want my family, my wife and kids, to be proud of how I handled this.

“But more importantly, for the Astros fans and the baseball fans, the supporters, the detractors, I just want to be real and be relatable in this situation that I made a mistake. I wish I could do it over again, like many of us in life wish we could do something over again, and that I will work tirelessly to restore the integrity that’s needed in this game, and the integrity that’s already in this game. And I believe in baseball. I love baseball. And I can’t wait to see what’s next for this sport.”

Hinch on whistleblower Mike Fiers

“I haven’t spent a lot of time focusing on the emotional side of the reaction to Mike [Fiers] telling the story and getting his message out. I wish I would have had an environment and a culture that was better for him to have come to me in real time — and others. I look at it like, ‘How could I have made it better or more open?’ ”

Hinch on what’s next for him

“I’m all about baseball. I love baseball. My goal is to contribute back to baseball again. I don’t know what that means. I think it’s going to be such a unique year, to gain a little balance, to gain some perspective, to learn from this entire thing, and come out better for it.

“I’m very proud of what I’ve done in baseball. I’m going to miss it terribly. I’m going to watch as much baseball as I can because that’s what I am. I’m baseball 24/7, but I’ll take it seriously the fact that I’ve been suspended based on the position I was in and what went on under my watch and I will come back stronger for it. I will come back a better leader, and I will be willing to do whatever it is to make the game better.”

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