A.J. Hinch’s year-long MLB suspension, penance for his involvement in Houston’s widely-publicized cheating scandal, officially ended Tuesday night when the Dodgers finished off Tampa Bay in Game 6 of the 2020 World Series (with a major assist from analytics-reliant Rays manager Kevin Cash). As expected, Hinch drew immediate interest, garnering a wide array of suitors including the Tigers, who were quick to pounce (no pun intended) on the former Astros skipper.
A Tigers alum himself (the former catcher played one year in the Motor City), Hinch put pen to paper on his contract Friday, officially replacing Ron Gardenhire as Detroit’s new bench boss. How quickly did the Tigers reach out to Hinch after his suspension was lifted?
“About 30 minutes after the World Series’ last out, my phone range,” said Hinch Friday in his introductory press conference. That call was from Tigers GM Al Avila, who told Hinch to pack his bags and catch the next flight to Detroit.
“There was never a doubt in my mind of his character,” said Avila in comments transcribed by Noah Trister of the Associated Press. “He’s one of the better guys that you’re going to meet in the game, or in life in general. One mistake does not determine a man.”
While most Astros tried to sidestep discussion of the team’s rampant sign-stealing, offering vanilla non-answers and other vague PR speak when pressed by reporters, Hinch took a different tact, owning up to the mistakes that were made under his leadership. “I really admired the way A.J. handled himself,” said Tigers owner Christopher Ilitch, applauding the sincerity shown by Hinch in comparison to other Astros, who were more combative in their responses.
Hinch isn’t the only manager looking for a fresh start. Alex Cora, who also served a one-year suspension for his role in the Astros’ elaborate sign-stealing scheme, could be poised to return to his former post as Red Sox manager. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reported Friday that Cora and his old team have been in contact “multiple times” since his reinstatement earlier this week.