MLB: AJ Hinch, Then and Now… Ousted By The D’Backs Becoming A Gem In Houston

A tale of two Cities. Arizona and Houston. Former Diamondbacks GM, Josh Byrnes decided that he wanted to change the current trend of a major league manager. When the D’Backs canned Bob Melvin, Byrnes went straight to AJ Hinch, who had zero managerial experience at the time. At the time he was hired by Byrnes, he was Director of Player Personnel in the farm system. AJ didn’t get much of a chance to succeed being that he was replacing Bob Melvin, who was loved in the clubhouse, and he has never been a skipper before. He went from T-Ball to the Major’s overnight and he wasn’t ready to lead a team at the time. however, he did get invaluable experience that prepared him to be a World Series Manager. He was hired at 35, fired at 36, with a record of 89-123. After he was axed from the D’Backs, he had no idea if he’d ever be given an opportunity like this again.

AJ Trophy

People questioned Josh Byrnes over and over again for the Hire of Hinch in 2009, but in reality, Byrnes was ahead of his time. GM’s are looking for the next AJ Hinch. At the time, the move was a disaster, Hinch and Byrnes were fired 14 months later. Being a Head Coach is one of the most insecure jobs, it is very cutthroat. If you don’t produce early, you’ll be on your way out real quick, and that is what happened for Hinch and Byrnes. Hinch didn’t even get to make it through a full season from start to finish before he was shown the door. At the time, D’Backs fans weren’t upset about it because Hinch was such a no name. Also, D’Backs fans were eager to have Kirk Gibson take over the team. Having Gibson the bench coach for Hinch didn’t seem right, given Gibson’s MLB resume.

He brings unique leadership and perspective to the job… We’re not here to reinvent the wheel, but to change the nature of the job a little bit? OK, we’ll do that. A.J.’s a leader. He connects with people. He gets things done.- Josh Byrnes after Hiring AJ Hinch.

The Astros GM, Jeff Luhnow, couldn’t stop thinking of AJ Hinch when he was doing his managerial search back in 2015. Hinch had a background unlike anyone else on the Astros short list. Hinch was only 40 years old which helps relate to the players in a clubhouse being younger, he also has 20 years of experience in the game. He’s ambitious, relates well to the players and has a psychology degree from Stanford. He’s worked as a catcher for 7 years, he’s worked as a farm director, an instructor, and Front-office executive.

AJ

This was a very bold move for Luhnow, the Astros were averaging 104 losses for the past 4 years prior to the Hinch hire. Astros Fans at the time wanted a big name. They were tired of losing and Hinch wasn’t a huge name, but he was the right name. The Astros were infused with young talent, Jose Altuve was a star, but he was producing all by himself. Carlos Correa was dominating the minors as a teenager and George Springer was a young talent that was a few years away. Luhnow wasn’t phased by Hinch’s win-loss record at the time. When those younger players hit rough patches or slumps, who better than to talk them up than AJ Hinch, “Been there done that,” he says. Hinch’s rough AZ stint only makes him a better manager today.

He’s a great human being… He loves the game. He loves the competition. When things haven’t gone well, he evaluates and tries to get better. I hate to be corny, but it’s his character… People who know him well trust his judgement, character, intentions. Those are important things in a job like that.- Josh Byrnes after Hinch was Hired by the Astros

Since taking over the Houston Astros, Hinch is 338-254 and took them to a 86-76 record his first season, including a post season appearance. The previous 4 seasons before Hinch they were 56-106, 55-107, 51-111, and 70-92 the year before Hinch. Hinch’s ability to connect with young players is what separates him from anyone else. He wanted to change the culture in Houston, and to let the young guys know that it is OK to fail. It’s how you respond to failure that separates a player. 

Why isn’t anyone around here talking about Winning? We’re not doing this just to get better. We’re doing this to win. The talent in this room is good enough to win right now, and it’s not OK to be mediocre anymore. – AJ Hinch addressing the Locker Room after being hired.

World Series Astros Dodgers Baseball

AJ Hinch’s path to the World Series was not easy and was filled with adversity, from his time as a catcher that only hit .200, or his very short time as skipper for the D’Backs. All of those struggles have made him a great leader. The Astros wouldn’t trade AJ Hinch for anybody. They’re a young team hungry to repeat as World Champions. Altuve, Correa, and Springer would run through a brick wall for Hinch, he’s a players coach and gets the most out of whatever lineup he throws out there. Currently, the Astros hold a 5 game cushion over the Mariners for 1st place of the AL West. AJ’s first words to the team have really resonated and sunk in. He said,  “Why doesn’t anybody talk about Winning?” Well, now that is the only thing the Astros talk about.

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bigcatsports

Born and Raised a sports fan from Phoenix, AZ. Went to the University of Arizona and got a degree in Speech Communication. Die hard UofA sports fan, #beardown, and also a very big Chargers fan, pains me to watch them play in LA. They belong in SD!! Played football and baseball and have been talking sports my whole life. I'll talk sports to anyone willing to listen!

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