New York (AFP) - Former Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch says it is a "fair question" as to whether or not his club's 2017 World Series title was tainted or not by a sign-stealing scandal.
Portions of an interview with the Major League Baseball Network were unveiled in a report on the league's website, Hinch's first public comments since he was fired last month in the wake of an MLB probe into the Astros' banned signal-swiping moves.
The Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers four games to three in MLB's best-of-seven championship series, but an investigation showed a video camera was used in centerfield to steal signals, with a monitor near the team's dugout and signals on what pitches were coming relayed to batters by banging on trash cans.
Hinch and Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow were each handed one-year bans for failing to stop players from using the technology aides to know what pitches would be thrown by rivals, then fired by the club, which was fined $5 million and lost its two top picks in the next two MLB Drafts.
"It's a fair question," Hinch told MLB when asked if the title was tainted. "I think everyone is going to have to draw their own conclusions.
"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.
"But I understand the question... Unfortunately we opened that door as a group and that question may never be answered. We may never know.
"We're going to have to live and move forward and be better in this sport, but unfortunately no one can really answer that question. I can't really pinpoint what advantages or what happened or what exactly would have happened otherwise, but we did it to ourselves."
- Cora, Beltran fallout -
The Astros reached the World Series again last year but lost in seven games to the Washington Nationals in the first World Series where no home team won a game.
MLB began the investigation last November after Oakland pitcher Mike Fiers, a member of the 2017 Astros, revealed the sign-stealing operation to The Athletic website.
Alex Cora, a bench coach for the 2017 Astros who was found to have been involved with the scheme, became the Boston Red Sox manager and guided them to the 2018 crown. Cora was fired by the Red Sox after the probe findings were released and an inquiry continues into whether Boston was stealing signals in 2018.
Carlos Beltran, who played for the 2017 Astros and had been hired last year as manager of the New York Mets, was dismissed before ever taking charge of a game for the club after being named in the report as one of the players involved in stealing signs.
The Astros last week hired long-time major league manager Dusty Baker to replace Hinch and earlier this week hired James Click from the Tampa Bay Rays as their new general manager.