Houston Astros: What’s Up With A.J. Hinch?

Wow — that was quick.

I thought the Houston Astros were going to take their time a bit in finding a new manger but they wasted no time in getting the guy that they wanted.

The were fast and furious with the interviews of 10 candidates — including heavy hitters such as Tampa Bay Rays’ bench coach Dave Martinez, Los Angeles Angels’ bench coach Dino Ebel and former Astro Phil Nevin, who had been managing in the minor leagues as of late.

Apparently, the guy will be A.J. Hinch, who was introduced as the Astros’ 18th manager last month.

Whoa.  Wait a minute.

18 managers?

I thought the Astros had hired less than that but that’s a painful but true stat.

Talk about stability at the skipper position…

In comparison, the Houston Rockets have had 12 head coaches and the Houston Texans have had just three, yep only three despite the horrible seasons the franchise has had while developing from infancy into an adult of its own.

But it makes sense…

There was one point — I believe we’re still in the middle of it — where it was a game of musical chairs to be the Astros’ manager.

It seemed so long ago when he had the stability of having Larry Dierker at the helm — who is tied with Art Howe in the amount of consecutive seasons as manager with five.

Since Phil Garner was fired in 2007, when a manager starts approaching his second season — the evaluation period begins and usually the front office will have itchy trigger fingers to create a spark in the clubhouse.

In comes the interim manager, he finishes out the season, then the search begins for a new manager.

We’ve seen this story countless times.

And were about to go through it again…

The positives of about Hinch is that he was a former player — although mediocre at best — as well as having managerial and front office experience.

The negatives?  He’s relatively unproven and somewhat unknown in major league baseball.

He’s not a household name by any means but he could be depending on how he does here in Houston.

He played for four teams in his seven-season career — with most of his career being with the Oakland Athletics.  He was there for three seasons.  He also did some work with the Kansas City Royals, the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Phillies where his career ended.

He did lead the American League in most double plays turned by catcher in his rookie season in 1998.  However, he also lead the AL in most errors committed by a catcher that same season as well.

Yikes.

He had already been planning his post-baseball career toward the end and had attended the off season winter meetings of general managers after the 2003 season to attempt to stake a claim for a front office job.

“I think A.J.’s going to be the manager when we win the World Series.” — Houston Astros general manger Jeff Luhnow

After his playing career was over in 2005, just two years later, he was hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks to become their manager of minor league operations.

He did an impressive job, and Baseball America declared Hinch in 2006 as one of 10 people who will have a prominent role in the major leagues in the future.

In 2009, he took over for Bob Melvin as the Diamondbacks’ skipper after a rough start becoming the interim manager finishing out the season going 58-75.

He was then fired midway through the 2010 season after compiling a 31-48 record.

Later that year, just before the end of the season, he was hired as the San Diego Padres vice president of professional scouting to which where had been up until recently.

September 6, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow before the game against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum. The Athletics defeated the Astros 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After the Padres fired general manager Josh Byrnes back in June, he shared the duties of running the team with senior vice president of baseball operations Omar Minaya and assistant GM Fred Uhlman, Jr.

Toward the end of this season, in August, he knew the writing was on the wall and decided to resign from his position with the Padres.

He knew Padres’ president Mike Dee was going to clean house some more and bring in a whole new regime.

The peculiar thing about this was that Byrnes was the GM of the Diamondbacks while Hinch was there and when Byrnes was hired by the Padres, Hinch followed him with a job waiting for him in the wings.

However, with Byrnes having not secured any employment yet anywhere, Hinch had to use his lengthy resume to land himself a job.

Next stop, Houston, Tex.

Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has high regard for Hinch and feels he has met all of the requirements that he’s seeking in a manager.

He even thinks that Hinch will be a part of something special.

“I think A.J.’s going to be the manager when we win the World Series,” Luhnow said.

The hiring makes sense as well because he has tremendous experience working with tons of prospects.

But it remains to be seen if the Diamondbacks’ success of the 2011 season was a result of what Hinch had been putting together during the time he was there.

The D-Backs went 94-68 with a first-place finish to boot.

That’s something that’s certainly attainable for the Astros but they still have a long way to go.

But the trend is in the right direction after the team finished the season 70-92 — almost a 20-game improvement from last season’s 51-111 record.

There’s one thing we know for sure — the guy wants to win, which would be an obvious goal.

“To know me is to know I like winning,” Hinch told the Houston Chronicle Sep. 29th. “I like to compete. I see great things ahead here for the Houston Astros.”

Good luck A.J., Houston will welcome you with open arms, especially if the Astros start out the season on a strong note.

Those once-empty seats at Minute Maid Park will be filled with excited and hopeful fans — which is vital to have the drive for success.

Let’s hope he stays around for awhile — we shall see…

Go ‘Stros!

 

 

 

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