It didn’t matter to him then, he said, and it doesn’t matter to him now.
“That’s bulls—,” the longtime Detroit Tigers slugger and shoo-in Hall of Famer told ESPN in a rare sit-down interview. “I don’t care about that.”
An MLB investigation, the results of which were released in January 2020, revealed the Astros had cheated by using a camera-based sign-stealing system during their 2017 championship run and into the 2018 regular season. A trash can-banging scheme was used to help hitters know what pitch was coming, the probe found.
While many believe the sign-stealing system provided Astros hitters a substantial advantage, Cabrera downplayed its ultimate impact. The 2012 Triple Crown winner and four-time batting champion emphasized that you still need exceptional talent to win a World Series, and that hitting is not as simple as just knowing the incoming pitch.
“In the end … it’s baseball,” said Cabrera, the seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner. “[Try to] go ahead and do it like those guys did.”
MLB’s investigation led the Astros to fire manager AJ Hinch, who also was suspended by the league for the 2020 season.
Cabrera, who enters the season 13 home runs shy of 500 and 134 hits shy of 3,000, said he was pleased when the Tigers hired Hinch as their new manager in October, regardless of the baggage that accompanied the decision.
“He’s a really smart guy, a passionate guy,” Cabrera said. “He’s an honest man, a very special man. He knows a lot about baseball. He has great communication with us. I don’t care what they did in Houston. He [was] a big part of the success Houston had the last three to five years.”
Hinch, 46, repeatedly has expressed remorse for his actions.
“We put ourselves in a situation at the end for it to be really ugly. And we deserved everything that happened,” Hinch told ESPN. “But we did a lot right. We got [an Astros] team from the rebuilding stage all the way to the top for a few years in a row. And the work that the players did, the work that the staff did, the front office, gets a little muddied with the way that it ended. And that’s unfortunate. But we have to answer a lot of questions about that entire time because of what we did at the end.”
Hinch knew that by returning to the game, he would have to constantly address what happened in Houston, and he said he’s OK with that.
“I don’t think we have the right to tell anybody when they should be done with it,” he said. “For us, we’ve got to move forward. I owe it to [the Tigers] organization and this team.
“But your actions have consequences and part of those consequences are going to last for a while because of how wrong it was.”
Although MLB’s investigation concluded that Hinch was not the mastermind behind the scheme, he was suspended because, as MLB commissioner Rob Manfred noted in his report at the time, “As the person with responsibility for managing his players and coaches, there simply is no justification for Hinch’s failure to act.”
“I’m not going to tell anyone what to think, but I do want people to give me a chance. I do want the good that I’ve done in my career to be somewhere in that thought process,” Hinch said. “I was in charge of something that was terribly wrong, and I paid my consequences. I was suspended. I’ll never forget it. I’ll never not answer the question. I’ll never not apologize. But I’ve got a job to do. I’m going to be fully focused on that. And I would just appreciate if they would give me a chance.”