Today, the Houston Astros will announce a contract extension for A.J. Hinch, a move that is well-deserved and certainly should give Hinch a shot at being the longest-tenured Astros manager in franchise history. Many fans and possibly even writers will give Hinch the benefit of the doubt in perpetuity due to the World Series championship the Astros delivered to the city under his watch, but in reality, this extension would have happened with our without the trophy.
Since the moment A.J. Hinch walked in the door at Minute Maid Park on September 29, 2014, he had a plan for the organization that was unlike most managerial systems or regimes in major league baseball. Hinch, having been a MLB catcher, manager with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and front office member/scouting guru with the San Diego Padres, possessed a unique grasp of where the game had been, and more importantly, where it was going.
The Astros, looking to gain an edge on the rest of the league with the implementation of advanced analytics in all aspects of the baseball operations department, knew that a manager who would not only comply with front office initiatives, but also be able to add his own input and expertise would be vital to their success in the long run.
In this current state of baseball where information is constantly swirling around players’ heads, the last thing any young prospect or grizzled veteran needs to see is an old, stubborn manager clashing with a passionate general manager about the usage of analytics in the locker room. With A.J. Hinch, the Houston Astros have had the exact opposite of that atmosphere.
Using his communication skills to his advantage, Hinch has been able to guide his players through the process, giving advice to the tune of “Hey, these tips may be unorthodox but they might make you way better, so why not give them a try?” rather than a stern, mid-to-late 20th century look at the game. This attitude certainly seems to have helped younger players such as Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Lance McCullers Jr., and Chris Devenski launch their careers to where they stand today.
On the other hand, Hinch’s humility and ability to keep an open mind have helped him with veterans in the clubhouse as well. It’s not often that you see managers who actively seek out the help of players who are older than they are, as was the case with Carlos Beltran.
Not just in the MLB, but in all professional sports, managerial egos can be the cause of ruined seasons and personnel changes. With Hinch, the fact that he welcomes veteran players to help him and his staff guide the young prospects in the organization shows his desire to win at all costs and ability to put his own personal agenda aside whenever possible.
Through less than four full seasons as the Astros manager, Hinch’s club has faced adversity time and time again and wavered very little in those rough patches. When times get tough and the grind of a 162-game regular season starts to set in, teams, especially younger teams, look to their manager and his attitude for guidance. In these moments, Hinch’s demeanor and subtle confidence, maybe even cockiness, has helped will the Astros through difficult situations.
Whether it was Hurricane Harvey, the horrible slump of George Springer in the beginning of the World Series, the Ken Giles fiasco, or the controversial Roberto Osuna situation, Hinch always seemed to say the right things to the media and address the issue appropriately in the clubhouse.
His stubbornness in keeping Springer, one of his best offensive players, in the leadoff spot during the Fall Classic when every guy or girl with a microphone or a keyboard was telling him to move Springer down in the lineup helped propel the young outfielder to a World Series Most Valuable Player award. Now, it seems like the way he handled the acquisition of Roberto Osuna within his own clubhouse has impressed a lot of the players in just a few weeks since the deal was finalized.
Overall, A.J. Hinch will sign on the dotted line at some point today to extend his stay in Houston, Texas, a city where he has made a name for himself and found a match with the Houston Astros organization that could not have worked out any better at any other time.