Did cheating help Astros win World Series? Hinch says we may never know

(Reuters) - Did cheating help the Houston Astros win the 2017 World Series? A.J. Hinch, who was fired as manager over the illegal sign-stealing operation used during his team’s championship season, acknowledged it’s a fair question, and said we may never know.

“I hope over time it’s proven that it wasn’t (tainted),” Hinch, in his first public comments since being fired last month, said in a interview with MLB Network that will be aired in its entirety at 6 p.m. ET (2300 GMT) on Friday.

“But I understand the question ... Unfortunately we opened that door as a group, and that question may never be answered. We may never know.”

Both Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were fired by the Astros about an hour after Major League Baseball suspended them each for a year. The league found management to blame for a system used by the team to steal pitch signs from opposing catchers during the 2017 season.

In the interview, Hinch defended the talents of his players even though they put themselves in a position to have their accomplishments questioned.

According to MLB, the sign-stealing scheme evolved during the 2017 season. At the outset, it involved employees in the Astros’ video replay review room using live game feeds from the centerfield camera to attempt to decode and transmit opposing teams’ pitch-sign sequences.

At one point, a monitor was installed near the Houston dugout so players could watch, figure out the signs and hit a trash can with a bat to signal to their batter what type of pitch was coming, MLB said.

Hinch told MLB Network there was no way to determine how much the scheme helped his team. With 101 regular season victories, the 2017 Astros ran away with their division by 21 games before going on to win Houston’s first World Series title.

“We’re going to have to live and move forward and be better in this sport, but unfortunately no one can really answer that question,” said Hinch.

“I can’t really pinpoint what advantages or what happened or what exactly would have happened otherwise, but we did it to ourselves.”

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Peter Graff