Following yesterday's news that Tony La Russa has been hired by the White Sox to be the club's new manager, another AL Central team has selected its new skipper. The Detroit Tigers announced this afternoon that AJ Hinch will be the team's manager going forward.
Hinch, who won the 2017 World Series with the Houston Astros, has been out of baseball for a year since the Astros' sign-stealing scandal came to light last offseason. Hinch was handed a one-year suspension by Major League Baseball, although many suspected, rightfully so, that he would be back in the game after serving that suspension.
As the manager of a team that conducted one of the most egregious cheating scandals in baseball history, Hinch has said that he should have ended the scheme before it went as far as it did. Multiple reports say that Hinch smashed the monitors that were being used for the sign-stealing, but did not talk with the team afterwards and allowed the cheating to continue.
As the manager of the Astros, Hinch took the team to the playoff four times in five years, including two World Series appearances. The team won three straight AL West titles from 2017-2019 and won over 100 games in each of those three seasons.
Hinch's hiring will obviously draw lots of controversy and ire among baseball fans, but I believe it's a good move by the Tigers. Despite the cheating that went on in Houston, Hinch is a good manager and the kind of coach that today's game relies on. This article from 2014 outlines how Hinch is a firm believer in analytics, and is the perfect fit for any front office that is heavily reliant on data and numbers in their decisions.
That analytical approach led to success in Houston, regardless of what you think about their sign-stealing. Now we'll get to see how it translate to the Tigers' franchise, which has been struggling in recent seasons.
The Tigers started off the 2010 decade with four-straight division titles from 2011-2014, and even made a World Series appearance in 2012. But their play has spiraled downward recently. Since their last first-place finish in 2014, the Tigers have finished in last place in the AL Central in four of the past six seasons.
An aging Miguel Cabrera is not the player he once was, and the team has suffered from a lack of quality pitching. Despite their struggles, though, the Tigers have some great prospects waiting to make a breakthrough. Detroits' farm system ranks second in all of Major League Baseball, with players like Spencer Torkelson, Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Riley Greene all expected to contribute at a high level in the coming years. Maybe a guy like AJ Hinch at the helm is exactly what the Tigers need to see these players through to the next level.