Just over a month ago, on September 29, the Houston Astros hired A.J. Hinch as their manager for the 2015 season. Hinch, with his experience in the front office and his year and a half tenure as a manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks, had the prefect blend of front office and managerial experience that Jeff Luhnow desired. For a team that was still in rebuilding mode, and will be working in a lot of young talent over the next few years, Hinch appeared to be the right person for the job.
At this point, it may be understandable if they have a bit of buyer’s remorse. Since Hinch was hired, perhaps the best manager in the game, Joe Maddon, left the Tampa Bay Rays, becoming a managerial free agent. Needless to say, every team with either a managerial opening or a questionable tactician on the bench had interest before he signed with the Chicago Cubs.
While A.J. Hinch may well end up being a solid manager at some point, his track record does not exactly inspire success. Overall, in his 212 games in the dugout, Hinch has posted an 89-123 record, compared to the 781-729 record that Maddon has compiled in his career. Yes, it took time for Maddon to become the manager we know him to be at this point, but he was able to help develop the younger Rays players, helping to turn that team into an assembly line of young talent.
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Perhaps the biggest difference between what Hinch and Joe Maddon would have provided would be the prospect of stability for the Astros on the managerial front. Since Larry Dierker was fired following a postseason loss in 2001, the Astros have gone through eight different managers, with only Phil Garner even lasting three full seasons. Will Hinch really be that manager to break that trend?
Sometimes all a manager needs is a second chance. After all, Terry Francona proved that his struggles with the Philadelphia Phillies in his first tenure as a manager. It took Joe Torre several stops before turning into the manager e became with the New York Yankees. However, the Astros are not going to spend the money that either of those teams are willing to dish out.
It may well be that A.J. Hinch turns out to be an excellent manager who just needed another chance. Yet, it is even more likely that he ends up being yet another in a long line of managers who failed to live up to the Astros expectations.