DETROIT – As he awaits the end of his suspension this year, AJ Hinch knows that he wants to go back to baseball. The question is whether anyone in the sport will be willing to welcome him.
His answer came quite quickly.
“About 30 minutes after World Series’ ended, my phone rang,” Hinch said.
It was Detroit general manager Al Avila telling Hinch to get on the plane. Tigers quickly hired Hinch as their new coach, giving him the chance to return to the major arena of the tournament after he was sacked by Houston following Astros’s sign-stealing scandal.
It may take a while for Hinch to overcome the stigma about what happened in Houston, but he and his new bosses are ready to tackle the topic on Friday.
“I understand the question and I understand how wrong it was, and I̵7;m sorry for that,” said Hinch. “I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I’ll keep saying it. I’ll never forget the feeling I’ve had during the past year as I navigate this with my family. But you quickly have an exciting time going back and leading a group of men again and setting up what the Tigers baseball team will look like.
“I apologize for today, it has to be a topic, and I understand why. ”
Officially. #DetroitRoots pic.twitter.com/DHByKK81Zk
– Detroit Tigers (@tigers) October 30, 2020
The 46-year-old Hinch replaced Ron Gardenhire, who retired at the end of the season. He has taken over a team that has been rebuilt over the past few years.
Hinch guided Houston to the 2017 World Series title, but that championship – and a lot of what he has achieved there – is now seen from a different perspective after an investigation revealed Astros had uses video feeds from central field cameras to decode against catchers’ signals and players smash into trash cans to signal to people what is imminent. In January, Major League Baseball suspended Astros’ Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow for the season, and Astros immediately fired them both.
Hinch later said that he disapproved of the sign theft but failed to stop it.
“I started thinking right then, when AJ and Jeff were suspended, what would happen to those two? Will those two be back in the sport? Will they be welcome back into the sport? This sport? ” Ilitch, president and chief executive officer of Tigers. “As time went by, and I was just observing from a distance, how all the people involved with it handled themselves, I really admire how AJ handled himself. ”
Hinch said he’s delighted that the season can begin and that he has also had a few family trips. He also said he had a coronavirus infection, which caused some frightening moments in September.
However, he knows that he doesn’t want to be away from the game for too long.
“I always knew I wanted to go back to baseball,” said Hinch. “That’s a problem, I think the game and the people in the game will tell you where it will happen, if where it will be.”
Hinch says he’s counting down from the start to the end of the season, as he can begin serious interviews with any team that is interested.
On Thursday, Chicago White Sox announced the hiring of Hall of Famer Tony La Russa for that managerial position. Hinch said he never interviewed for that position.
On Friday, Tigers announced a multi-year deal with Hinch, who played for Detroit in 2003.
“We already know AJ quite well, about who he is,” said Avila. “I never had any doubts about his personality, honesty – he’s one of the better people you’ll ever meet in the game, or in life in general. A mistake doesn’t decide one. man. ”
Tigers longtime member Justin Verlander contacted him after being hired, Hinch said.
“He sent me a text this morning, talking about what Detroit will be like when the team is winning,” said Hinch. “There’s no place like it, he said.”
Detroit has hit 23-35 in this shortened season, finishing last at AL Central. It’s a familiar position for the Tigers lately – Detroit lost 114 games in 2019 – but the team was able to pick high in the draft around this time. Casey Mize, 2018’s top pick overall, has made it to the pro leagues this year, and Detroit used this year’s # 1 pick for midfielder Spencer Torkelson.
Left-handed Tarik Skubal made his major league debut this season alongside Mize. While these youngsters have yet to prove they can be a rival to the Tigers again, Detroit will be hoping Hinch can repeat what he did in Houston.
Hinch, a former player of the major leagues, managed Arizona from May 2009 to July 2010. When he took over Astros pre-2015, they hadn’t finished on .500 since 2008. Houston then had a full-time record of all five years under the Hinch, including that 2017 World Series title and the American Tournament 2019 flag.
Hinch is 570-452 as a major tournament manager. He played from 1998-2004, spending time with Oakland, Kansas City, Detroit and Philadelphia.
Associated Press contributed to this report.