Astros: AJ Hinch gets well deserved new job with Tigers

Dec 10, 2019; San Diego, CA, USA; Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch speaks to the media during the MLB Winter Meetings at Manchester Grand Hyatt. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sport
Dec 10, 2019; San Diego, CA, USA; Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch speaks to the media during the MLB Winter Meetings at Manchester Grand Hyatt. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sport /

Former Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch gets a well-deserved new job with the Tigers.

The well-intentioned but unfounded hopes of many Houston fans have been dashed. Former Astros manager AJ Hinch, who guided the club for five seasons including both of its AL pennants and its only World Series title, has a new job. He was hired on Friday to manage the Detroit Tigers.

Hinch went 481-329 in five seasons in Houston, posting a winning record every year and leading the team to three straight 100-win seasons. The Astros won three AL West titles, two AL pennants and one World Series during his tenure and made the playoffs in four of his five seasons. It’s easy to say he was the most successful manager in franchise history.

But of course the controversy of the team’s sign stealing scandal was his downfall. Owner Jim Crane fired Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow in January after MLB levied season-long suspensions for both. Their suspensions ended at the conclusion of the World Series, and the Tigers moved quickly to nab the guy who was obviously their top target.

The announcement came exactly one year after Hinch managed his last game with the Astros. That Game Seven of the 2019 World Series will forever be a sore memory for Houston fans, as Hinch’s decision to pull starter Zack Greinke too soon, and the subsequent choice to not use Gerrit Cole in relief, contributed to a heartbreaking loss.

A Well-Deserved Second Chance

That one game notwithstanding, Hinch did an excellent job in Houston, but of course his accomplishments are overshadowed by the team’s transgressions under his watch. MLB’s report on the sign stealing scandal made it obvious that Hinch did not approve of the sign stealing scheme and made his feelings known, but also that he failed to put a stop to it.

That failure to control his clubhouse was his undoing, but I doubt that’s a mistake he’ll be making again. He knows the game as well as anyone, and his analytically-inclined mind will work well with Detroit’s front office. The Tigers really couldn’t have found anyone better for the job.

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Hinch inherits a young team with plenty of top prospects on the way. They may not be ready to contend just yet, but will probably be in the playoffs within the next three or four years. He could be in a position to go on a run in the second half of the upcoming decade similar to the run the Astros had over the previous five seasons.

Surprisingly, the White Sox never interviewed Hinch. I would’ve thought him an obvious candidate for that job, as they have just now become contenders. But evidently their owner decided to go after the retired Hall of Famer Tony La Russa, which left Hinch for the Tigers. I’m sure Detroit will be thanking its division rivals for that.

There’s plenty of noise from the Astros haters about Hinch being a cheater and deserving a more draconian punishment, but this is just the trolls being trolls. The fact that he had a job lined up as soon as his suspension was over is pretty good evidence that he’s not even close to being the horrible person the haters will tell you he is, and it also shows that the sign stealing scandal is not as big of a deal as the haters would have you believe.

As much as Houston fans might have liked it, the Astros simply weren’t going to bring Hinch back. Crane probably burned that bridge by firing him, and Dusty Baker did a fine job in 2020. He probably needed a fresh start, and he looks to be getting a good one in Detroit. We wish him nothing but the best.