Boomer Esiason: AJ Hinch Was In 'Untenable Situation' With Astros

By WFAN Sports Radio 101.9 FM/66AM New York

As more information comes to light in the Astros' sign-stealing scandal, it's become clear that AJ Hinch found himself in a tough spot, WFAN's Boomer Esiason says.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the cheating scheme began when an intern presented to general manager Jeff Luhnow an Excel-based application programmed with an algorithm that could decode pitching signals.

Hinch was known as a manager who believed in analytics and front-office collaboration, and when he arrived in Houston, after a failed stint as the Diamondbacks' manager years earlier, he lacked the stature needed to push back on a front office that advocated for sign stealing.

"This was a rebound job for him," Esiason said on Monday's "Boomer and Gio" show. "And I really felt like that he was really put in an untenable situation as the manager. And yes, he broke a couple cameras or video monitors with the bat and all that other stuff 'cause he knew what they were doing was wrong. But this thing started with the front office.

"I don't think that AJ Hinch had that kind of credibility or that kind of strength to be able to do something like that (stopping the cheating). I'm not absolving him of responsibility, certainly not. And he paid a price, a very big price. He lost his job, he's suspended from baseball for a year and also is embarrassed to have to go around now and talk about this."

A nine-page report last month by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that during their 2017 World Series-winning season, the Astros used a camera in center field at Minute Maid Park to zero in on catchers' signs, which were then relayed to batters by having players, who were monitoring the video feed on a computer, bang on a trash can in the tunnel near the team's dugout.  

The Wall Street Journal report, however, said the Astros used the decoding algorithm, known as "Codebreaker," at both home and and away games in 2017 and into the 2018 season. In 2017, Houston beat the Yankees in a seven-game American League Championship Series en route to defeating the Dodgers in the World Series.

Astros manager AJ Hinch looks on prior to the game against the Oakland Athletics on April 6, 2019, at Minute Maid Park in Houston.Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Images

Esiason predicted other disgruntled ex-Astros employees will talk to investigative reporters and it will become obvious that MLB's investigation into the Astros was insufficient.

"It just goes to show you can't rush to judgment on stuff like this," he said. "You've got to go through it deeper than Major League Baseball did."

Gregg Giannotti, Esiason's co-host, said his biggest takeaway from Hinch's interview with Tom Verducci on MLB Network last week, was that Hinch didn't directly answer a question about whether the Astros used wearable buzzers that alerted them to upcoming pitches. Instead, the ex-manager said, "We got investigated for three months and the commissioner's office did as thorough an investigation as anyone could imagine -- and I believe them."

"So that, to me, I'm going to jump to a conclusion because, hell, why not?" Giannotti said. "To me, they used buzzers in some way, shape or form because if they didn't and he was confident that they didn't, he would've just said no. The guy's got nothing to lose at this point."

To listen to the open from Monday's "Boomer and Gio" show, click on the audio player above.