Hinch blows whistle, calls sign stealing suspicions ‘a joke’

Sports

Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch answers questions during a news conference before Game 4 of baseball’s American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK (AP) — Astros manager AJ Hinch blew his own whistle Thursday on sign stealing and pitch tipping: He’s had enough of allegations about Houston hitters going out of bounds to decipher what’s coming at the plate.

Hinch eagerly weighed in again on an issue that won’t seem to go away this postseason. He was asked before Game 4 of the AL Championship Series about reports that indicated the New York Yankees suspected the Astros of whistling from their dugout during the opener to communicate pitch selection to their batters.

Major League Baseball looked into it and concluded Houston didn’t break any rules, a person familiar with the matter confirmed to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

“Man, I’m glad you asked that question, and I thought it would come up today,” Hinch said at the start of his Yankee Stadium news conference. “In reality, it’s a joke. But 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.

“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,” he added. “It apparently works, even when it doesn’t happen.”

Hinch said he understands the “gamesmanship” and “creating a narrative for yourself.”

But he’s bothered by the anonymous accusations.

“The problem I have is when other people take shots at us outside this competition,” Hinch said. “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.”

Houston made headlines last year following suspicions of illegal sign stealing when a man associated with the Astros was caught pointing a cellphone into opposing dugouts.

“I understand where the paranoia comes from. We have it. I have it,” said Astros ace Justin Verlander, scheduled to start Game 5 on Friday in New York.

“I’ll be using multiple signs here tomorrow night. 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. … 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 what’s coming.”

Hinch pointed out that during the game in question this time, the Astros were shut out on three hits by Masahiro Tanaka and three Yankees relievers.

“So nobody heard it. You guys have audio, video, people in places, and nothing. There’s no evidence of anything,” Hinch said. “So to the Yankees, there’s no — nothing bad going on. Pitch tipping is a little bit of a different story. 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.

“There’s nothing going on other than the competition on the field,” he added. “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 manager Aaron Boone declined to comment about the whistling allegations, but acknowledged all teams are always looking to gain an edge — and they try to get into each other’s heads.

“It’s part of the game,” he said.

Houston beat the error-prone Yankees 8-3 for a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven playoff to move within one win of the World Series.

“Not everything is about tipping,” said Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, who clocked a three-run homer. “We can hit, too.”

“When I listen to the people talking about it in the business, I just laugh,” he added. “We’re just watching the game. We’re taking advantage of every single detail we can get. Hitting is tough. If you’re tipping your pitches, fix it. If you’re tipping your pitch and I can see, I’m going to take advantage of it.

“But I think it’s disrespectful that every time we score a lot of runs, people talk about tipping. Nobody was tipping today and we scored, what, eight runs? We’re great hitters. We’ve been doing it for a whole season.”

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