Before the baseball media could ask a single question, Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch informed the scrum of reporters that he would not be commenting on the ongoing sign-stealing investigation. He thanked the media and proceeded to address “the elephant in the room. I know you’re all here for obvious reasons, and I have great respect for what you do. If I was in your shoes, I would be on the other side of this table, and I would want to ask questions … but I can’t comment on it. It is an ongoing investigation. I hope there’s a day where I’m able to answer more questions, but I know today’s not that day.”
Hinch’s statement was nothing but white noise to the media, who rattled off more than a dozen questions directly or indirectly about the investigation. Hinch never flinched and held his ground.
The following is the Q&A between Hinch and the baseball media:
Q. Aside from the facts and what’s turned out, do you worry at all that what Fiers said, no matter what is found out, it will taint the accomplishments of your team?
AJ HINCH: So I consider that all part of the investigation. So I’m not going to comment on it. As I said in my previous comments, this is a very complicated and very involved process. I have a lot of respect for the process. MLB is doing it. If I told you how much time I spent with MLB and the investigation, I know we’re not going to wrap this up in a 20-minute news conference here. So I will decline comment.
Q. Why do you feel you can’t talk about this?
AJ HINCH: I’ve been asked not to talk about it until the investigation is complete.
Q. By the league office?
AJ HINCH: By everyone I talked to during the investigation.
Q. AJ, are you worried you can incur suspension for this?
AJ HINCH: It’s part of the investigation.
Q. How much time have you spent with MLB people?
AJ HINCH: A lot.
AJ HINCH: A lot.
Q. Do you have a sense of when they want to decide this thing, or when you’re going to find out?
AJ HINCH: No, it’s in their hands.
Q. Is it hard to not know exactly what your fate is?
AJ HINCH: It’s all part of the investigation. If you guys have any questions about the Astros during our off-season other than the investigation, I’ve got answers.
Q. You do realize during the ALCS you kind of came out and even made fun of the fact that there are these questions being asked. I don’t know, is there any contrition or anything that you feel like
AJ HINCH: There will be a day when I get to address all of it, I assure you.
Q. I don’t know if this falls under it, but you’ve accomplished a lot with the Astros the last five years. Do you feel like this investigation throws any of that into —
AJ HINCH: You said “investigation,” so I can’t answer it.
Q. I guess, do you feel like this whole issue takes away at all from what you’ve done?
AJ HINCH: We have a really good team. We have a lot of good things going. We have — we’re trying to build the 2020 team. Our energy’s been spent on that. Obviously, it’s been a different off-season for us. So, again, moving forward, I hope there’s going to be a day when we get past this and we can move forward. But until they’re done with the investigation, everything that it encompasses, I just can’t talk about.
Q. In putting together next year’s team, has this made any free agents or players you look at shy away from you?
AJ HINCH: Yeah, we’ve got a lot of good options. We’ve got a great nucleus of a team that has been very successful, that is a strong nucleus. It’s a team that’s preparing. I’ve been in touch with our players, and they’re very happy with where their off-seasons are and how they’re going to be ready going into the season.
We do have a few holes to fill. We’ve lost a lot of high, high end innings, or at least the threat of us losing a high end innings, and in the rotation we’ve got some young kids that we’re excited about. We’ve got a pretty full position player group outside of the catcher position. The conversations that we’ve had, Jeff has had, the recruitment part of it has all been very positive.
Q. I think around baseball there’s this kind of impression about the Astros that you guys are kind of arrogant and now obviously that you guys are cheaters. Does that image bother you?
AJ HINCH: I can’t really control what other people think. I’m pretty focused on our team.
Q. Never mind the investigation for a second, do you think it’s crossing the line to steal signs?
AJ HINCH: The sign stealing part of it is all part of the investigation. So my comments on sign stealing, my comments on investigations, allegations, even the principal people that we’ve talked about, articles that I know have been written — it all has to wait for another day, and I’m sorry. I want to answer it and not try to redirect you guys all the time, but I simply can’t do it.
Q. But you do get, though, that’s not a detail question?
AJ HINCH: It is a detail question, though. It’s a detail to me.
Q. It’s just what you think.
AJ HINCH: And I’m going to keep what I think to myself until I’m ready to comment on it.
Q. Has it been stressful?
AJ HINCH: It’s not comfortable. It’s a stressful off-season in general just because our team’s changing. I think that’s what I’m stressed about. I think the — you know, we had one of the best teams that I’ve ever been around and ever can imagine being on last season with the type of pitching staff we had, with the nucleus of the position players, the bullpen that we had, and we got to Game 7 of the World Series. So the stress comes with wanting to get back to that same level of caliber of team.