Astros manager A.J. Hinch reacted with derision on Thursday night to the suggestion that his team was whistling from the dugout as part of a sign-stealing scheme during Game 1 of the ALCS against the Yankees.
Yankees coaches reportedly were upset with what they thought they heard the Astros doing, and a dugout-to-dugout yelling match ensued during the Yankees’ 7-0 victory on Saturday at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Hinch and Astros ace Justin Verlander pointed out before Game 4 at Yankee Stadium that the Astros were shut out on three hits in Game 1.
“In reality, it’s a joke,” Hinch said. “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 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.”
As he continued, Hinch went from silly to serious on the topic.
“I understand the gamesmanship,” he said. “I understand kind of creating a narrative for yourself or wondering how things are going. Now, the game in question, you know, we got three hits and no runs. And so nobody heard it. You guys [media] have audio, video, people in places and nothing — and there’s no evidence of anything.”
Hinch also addressed the Yankees directly, saying: “To the Yankees, there’s nothing bad going on . . . 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 [sign] stealing.”
Verlander, who will start Game 5 on Friday night, said sign-stealing is a real thing that goes on between the lines. But if the Astros did use it in Game 1, it obviously didn’t work.
“Look at what we’re getting accused of,” he said. “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.
“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 OK, 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.”
The Astros have long been accused of various methods of skulduggery when it comes to sign-stealing. Major League Baseball has cracked down on any use of cameras during games, but rumors persist that teams still try to get an edge, especially in their home ballparks.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said some gamesmanship is expected and OK but that some things are not OK. It’s not clear where whistling fits into the unwritten rules spectrum.
“Sure, there’s boundaries,” Boone said. “We could have a conversation for days on that. There’s boundaries. There’s things you’re not allowed to do and things that are perfectly within the context of the game.”