A.J. Hinch, the ill-fitted, star-crossed manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2009 to 2010, looked like a longshot to ever manage again.
Yet, Hinch not only beat those odds, he found a spot where he is suited to succeed as few others are. Part of what made him such a poor choice in 2009 makes him a good one now.
In an interview on SiriusXM last week, Hinch said he would be more comfortable in “his own skin”during his second stint as a manager.
His experience will help a lot.
But there’s more to it.
Hinch got the first gig after the D-backs foundered early in the 2009 season. He was the team’s director of player development. He was young, just a little shy of 35. He had been a marginal major-leaguer, and he had no coaching or managing experience anywhere.
He was a numbers guy.
His boss, GM Josh Byrnes, then considered a wiz kid, said he picked Hinch
because of the new manager’s grasp of “organizational advocacy.”
What Byrnes meant is Hinch understood what the organization was trying to do. Hinch respected the numbers.
But the phrase made Hinch sound like a front-office spy, further undermining him.
An anonymous player cracked the manager’s initials stood for “A Joke.”
There were reports, later denied, of veterans back talking Hinch.
It didn’t help that Hinch was replacing a beloved manager, Bob Melvin. Or that the team stunk.
The 2009 and 2010 Diamondbacks were built around 2006 Cy Young winner Brandon Webb. He pitched four innings on Opening Day 2009 and never pitched in the majors again because of shoulder problems.
That wasn’t all. The bullpen was awful, the hitting weak.
Hinch and Byrnes were dumped on July 1, 2010.
Byrnes was hired in the Padres front office, and Hinch soon followed. The Padres fired Byrnes this summer, and Hinch left on his own shortly thereafter.
So now Hinch is managing for an organization that reveres analytics as possibly no other team does.
His predecessor, Bo Porter, was thought to be a little too old school about such matters.
Hinch turned 40 in May. So he is age appropriate for the job.
He has managing experience at the big-league level.
The Astros don’t have a lot of vets, but one of them, reliever Chad Qualls, who pitched for Hinch in
Arizona, praised Hinch’s hiring.
And the young Astros have come up in an organization where the numbers are just part of doing business.
Yeah. It’s gonna be a lot different this time.