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10 things we learned from ex-Astros manager AJ Hinch’s first interview after being fired following sign-stealing scandal

Hinch sat down with MLB Network’s Tom Verducci for an exclusive interview

HOUSTON – For the first time since being fired, ex-Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch opened up about his role in the sign-stealing scandal, in an exclusive interview with the MLB network.

Tom Verducci, the MLB Network reporter who sat down with Hinch, described his mood as “anxious."

Here were some of the highlights.

1. Does he feel responsible?

Hinch didn’t dodge responsibility.

“I still feel responsible and I’ll always feel responsible as the man up front,” he said.

Hinch added that it was a hard day when he was fired.

“It was a very emotional day for me and my family,” said the former Astros manager.

So why did Hinch agree to do the interview with Verducci?

“It happened on my watch. I’m not proud of that,” said Hinch, adding that, although he released an apology, he felt he owed the fans and baseball an on-camera apology.

2. What did he expect would be the outcome?

“I felt responsible from the beginning, so I knew there was going to be punishment," said Hinch. “But I didn’t know to what extent.”

This situation was unprecedented in the game, so Hinch said he knew it would be serious.

He added that when he found out his suspension was for a full year, he was “devastated.” Being fired obviously added more emotions and Hinch said he didn’t expect the firing.

3. What happened the day he got fired?

Hinch said he was downtown at Minute Maid when Astros owner Jim Crane asked him to come upstairs. He and Crane had an emotional conversation during which, where Crane fired him. At that point, Hinch says his concern became his family and taking his kids out of school.

“I didn’t want it to pop up on my kids’ phones at school,” said Hinch.

4. The report made it clear Hinch wasn’t involved. So how does he feel about being fired?

Hinch took a bat to the monitor twice, making it clear he wasn’t pleased with the sign stealing. So how does he feel about the fact that he was fired while players received immunity?

“My mindset was to demonstrate that I didn’t like it,” he said. I didn’t endorse it, but I was the manager."

Verducci brought up that in the report, the Astros players said they would have stopped had Hinch asked.

“That hurts to hear that," said Hinch. “In hindsight, I should have had a meeting and addressed it straightforward."

“Leadership is about what you tolerate. I tolerated too much," said Hinch.

5. Was Houston’s 2017 World Series victory tainted?

“It’s a fair question,” Hinch said. "I think everyone’s going to have to draw their own conclusion.”

Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for one season by Commissioner Rob Manfred, who found Houston illicitly used electronics to steal signs during their title run. Team owner Jim Crane then fired both Hinch and Luhnow.

Hinch defended his players’ talents but said the club put itself in a position where its achievements may be blemished.

6. Were the players wearing buzzers?

“We were investigated for 3 months,” said Hinch, adding that it was thorough and that he believes the findings (that the Astros did not use buzzers).

“I hope over time, it’s proven that it wasn’t,” he said. “But I understand the question. ... Unfortunately, we opened that door."

Manfred’s report noted the cheating was “player-driven” and that Hinch did not support it, but also said Hinch didn’t share that disapproval with players. Hinch said he was unsure how much the sign-stealing may have helped.

“Unfortunately, no one can really answer that question,” he said. "I can’t pinpoint what advantages or what happened or exactly what happened otherwise. But we did it to ourselves.”

7.) Does he think the players will apologize?

“I think the jury’s still out on exactly what the Houston players are going to say,” he said, pointing toward Spring Training as the possible time and place for contrition.

Team owner Jim Crane told KPRC 2 in an interview that the players would make a joint statement during Spring Training.

Hinch apologized in a statement the day of his firing, but Astros players — given immunity and thus not punished as part of MLB’s investigation — have been reluctant to say they were sorry. Speaking at baseball’s owners meetings Thursday, Manfred said he was not disappointed that no players had apologized.

8. What did he have to say about his reassurance in October 2019 that the team was not cheating

“It made me laugh, because it’s ridiculous,” Hinch said in an October 2019 interview about whether or not the Astros were cheating. The cheating scandal and probe is from the 2017 season. But Hinch faced allegations this past season as well.

“I know it looks bad, because it gets blurry, but I believe in what we were doing in 2019,” he said in the interview Friday.

9. What is his biggest regret?

“I should have had a more forceful interaction at the appropriate time,” said Hinch.

“This (moment), I feel like I fell short.”

10. What now?

“I hope to gain balance, perspective, and learn from this entire thing,” said Hinch.

“I’m proud of what I’ve done in baseball,” he added, noting this will be the first time in 24 years he won’t be involved in Spring Training.

“I’m going to serve my suspension quietly... it’s going to be a long summer."

Unsurprisingly, Hinch said he hopes to manage again. His suspension concludes after the 2020 season.