The Detroit Tigers named A.J. Hinch as the 39th manager in franchise history on Friday, just days after his one-year suspension ended for his role in the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.
Hinch, 46, agreed to terms on a multi-year contract with the Tigers and replaces Ron Gardenhire, who retired in mid-September.
“I’d like to thank (owner) Chris Ilitch and (general manager) Al Avila for giving me a chance and the opportunity to get back in the dugout to lead this historic ballclub,” Hinch said in a press release.
“The last year was the most difficult of my life. 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 led the Astros to a World Series championship in 2017 and another World Series berth in 2019, but he was fired by the club in January after Major League Baseball’s investigation into sign-stealing allegations.
MLB ruled that the Astros illegally stole signs in 2017, and it issued one-year bans for Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. The club terminated both shortly after the punishments were announced.
The Tigers weren’t dissuaded from talking to Hinch despite the stain on his resume.
“Coming into this managerial search we already knew that A.J.’s diverse baseball acumen, knowledge of analytics and passion for the game were second to none,” Avila said. “However, we also knew there were some important conversations to have about A.J.’s time in Houston. Throughout that dialog 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.”
Added Ilitch: “Throughout the interview process it was clear that A.J. had learned from his situation in recent months, and it has changed him in profound ways. Quite frankly, it’s exactly what we wanted and needed to hear.”
Hinch produced a 481-329 record in five years leading the Astros after compiling an 89-123 mark in part of two seasons as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ manager (2009-10). Between the two managerial gigs, he worked in the San Diego Padres’ front office.
A catcher during a playing career that saw him compete for the Oakland A’s, the Kansas City Royals, Detroit and the Philadelphia Phillies from 1998-2004, Hinch served as minor league operations manager and director of player development for the Diamondbacks prior to his first managerial job.
The Tigers finished in last place in the American League Central in 2020 with a 23-35 record. They have not been to the playoffs since 2014.
“My feelings towards baseball are the same that so many Detroiters have for this team,” Hinch said. “Through thick and thin you always care about it and rely on it to be there as a part of your life, and I’m so proud to play a role in growing that tradition here with the Tigers.
“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. It’s time to start playing winning baseball, and I am confident this organization is positioned to make that happen.”
–Field Level Media