Having been hired Friday as manager of the Tigers, A.J. Hinch is ready to turn the page on his time with the Astros -- a period that saw Houston win three division titles and the 2017 World Series only to be convicted of a sign-stealing scandal that cost Hinch his job.
But in his year away from baseball, Hinch had plenty of time to reflect. He was suspended by Major League Baseball in January for the duration of the 2020 season.
“The last year was the most difficult of my life," Hinch said Friday in a statement released by the Tigers. "It gave me time to reflect, which was such a big part of this process. Everything that has transpired over the past year, personally and professionally, has put so much in perspective for me, and re-enforced how important it is to do things with integrity and honesty.”
Hinch has said he wasn't actively involved in Houston's sign-stealing operation, an elaborate system that used a center field camera to relay footage to a TV monitor in the hallway outside the team's dugout at Minute Maid Park. But he's acknowledged he should have done more to shut it down.
Tigers general manager Al Avila said Friday in the same press release that Hinch showed the appropriate level of contrition throughout the interview process.
“We already knew that A.J.’s diverse baseball acumen, knowledge of analytics and passion for the game were second to none. However, we also knew there were some important conversations to have about A.J.’s time in Houston. Throughout that dialogue he was clearly remorseful and used that time to reflect on the situation, and we believe he will emerge as a better leader because of it," said Avila.
Hinch steps into an advantageous situation in Detroit. While the Tigers are coming off their third last-place finish in the past four years, they have a loaded farm system that's beginning to reach the majors. We saw the first wave of prospects arrive this year.
"This ballclub is entering an extremely exciting period, with young players primed and ready to make an impact at the Major League level," Avila said. "I’m confident A.J. is the best man for this job as we strive to bring a World Series Championship back to the city of Detroit.”
It's a similar scenario to the one Hinch started with in Houston in 2015. The Astros had the most losses in baseball over the prior four seasons, but also a roster loaded with young talent. Hinch took them to the playoffs in his first year at the helm, then helped groom an AL juggernaut.
He'll have the opportunity to do the same thing in Detroit.
"Having a talented young core of players, dedicated leadership group and passionate fan base was exactly what I was looking for in a team, and it’s clear we have that here in Detroit," said Hinch. "It’s time to start playing winning baseball, and I am confident this organization is positioned to make that happen.”