Astros manager A.J. Hinch on illegal sign-stealing allegations: 'It's a joke'

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/houston/" data-ylk="slk:Houston Astros">Houston Astros</a> manager A.J. Hinch had some thought before ALCS Game 4 about claims of stealing signs by the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/ny-yankees/" data-ylk="slk:New York Yankees">New York Yankees</a>. (Thomas B. Shea/USA TODAY Sports)
Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch had some thought before ALCS Game 4 about claims of stealing signs by the New York Yankees. (Thomas B. Shea/USA TODAY Sports)

NEW YORK — What a joke.

That’s how Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch responded to allegations made by the New York Yankees that his team was illegally stealing signs in the American League Championship Series.

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Sources confirmed to Yahoo Sports that the Yankees claimed the Astros were using whistling noises from their dugout to signal pitches to their hitters in Game 1 of the ALCS. Major League Baseball, however, investigated and found no wrongdoing. The Yankees beat the Astros 7-0 that night behind six shutout innings from starter Masahiro Tanaka.

Whistling as a way to signal pitches to hitters is prohibited per MLB rules.

“In reality, it’s a joke,” Hinch said prior to Game 4. “Major League Baseball does a lot to ensure the fairness of the game. There's people everywhere. If you go through the dugouts and the clubhouses and the hallways, there's like so many people around that are doing this.

“And then when I get contacted about some questions about whistling, it made me laugh because it's ridiculous. And had I known that it would take something like that to set off the Yankees or any other team, we would have practiced it in spring training.

“So to me, I understand the gamesmanship. I understand kind of creating a narrative for yourself or wondering how things are going. Now, the game in question, we got three hits and no runs. And so nobody heard it. You guys have audio, video, people in places and nothing — and there's no evidence of anything.”

The Astros rebounded to win Games 2 and 3.

And the belief was that Yankees starters James Paxton and Luis Severino were tipping their pitches in those games.

“Pitch tipping is a little bit of a different story,” Hinch said. “If you don't want us to know the pitch is coming, don't do something that demonstrates what pitch you're going to pitch or what you're going to throw. But they're doing the same thing. Every hitter wants to know what's coming by virtue of what a pitcher is doing or not doing.

“The problem I have is when other people take shots at us outside this competition,” Hinch continued. “When you guys ask me this question, my face, my name is by my quotes, my opinions, my reaction is all for you guys to tweet out and put on the broadcast. But we have people that are unnamed, or you guys have sources that are giving you information. I suggest they put their name by it if they're so passionate about it to comment about my team or my players.

“There's nothing going on other than the competition on the field. The fact that I had to field the question before a really, really cool game at Yankee Stadium is unfortunate. But we can put it to rest. That will be the last question I answer about pitch tipping or pitch stealing.”

Yankees GM Brian Cashman declined comment on the situation.

The allegations didn’t sit well with Astros righty Justin Verlander, who will start in Game 5 on Friday.

“I mean, it sucks for our players, because those guys are so talented,” Verlander said. “And I don't think anything should take away from what they're able to accomplish. And so in that aspect, it's disappointing. But I think we know what's going on there. Look at what we're getting accused of. How many runs did we score in that first game? But I understand where the paranoia comes from. We have it. I have it.

“As far as tipping and signs, I'll be using multiple signs here tomorrow night,” Verlander continued. “There's just so many cameras and there's so much video now, it just kind of evolved a few years ago. You've got teams studying what signs you use at second base before you even step on the mound. It used to be kind of a gamesmanship thing, runner gets on second base and if he's able to decipher your signs the time he's on second base, that's okay, good for you. But if you're pre-studying them or having some person study them before you even get out there and all of a sudden you take the field and the team already knows what you're using, I think that's a little bit different.

“As far as tipping pitches, it's the same thing,” Verlander continued. “There's so much video, there's so much analysis. We use the analysis to study our mechanics. You do overlays of video comparing yourself to when you were good, to when you were bad, and seeing if anything is different. Well, the same can be done to compare if you're tipping pitches; fastball versus slider, fastball versus screwball, whatever. So it's something with what's out there, you just have to be extremely diligent about it and pay attention and try to do the best you can to not help the team know it's coming.”

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