The Tigers hired AJ Hinch as their manager on Friday, marking Hinch’s return to baseball after what ended up being a one-year exile for his role in the Astros’ cheating scandal in his previous job.
The two biggest revelations in Hinch’s introductory press conference were that he contracted the coronavirus and that Detroit called him “minutes” after the last out of the World Series.
Hinch has been in this position before, taking over a tanking team on the precipice of trying to win. But when he did so in Houston, it was with the help of the funniest and most extensive cheating scheme in modern baseball history. That dominated the questions on Hinch’s first day in charge.
“I do have conversations to have with players and coaches,” Hinch said Friday. “Absolutely, those are tough conversations...I’m sorry that they’re going to have to deal with it... But that is our reality, because wrong is wrong. And it was very wrong. And I’ll make sure that everybody knows that I feel responsible because I was the manager and it was on my watch, and I’ll never forget it.”
Even if Hinch’s version of events remains a bit fuzzy, this is much further than his boss, Jeff Luhnow has gone in taking any responsibility.
Tigers owner Christopher Ilitch alluded to as much on Friday.
"I started thinking right then and there, when AJ and Jeff got suspended, what’s going to happen to those two guys? Are those two guys going to be back in the sport? Would they be welcomed back in the sport?'' Ilitch said. “As time went on, and I just sort of watched from afar, how everybody that was involved with that handled themselves, I really admired the way AJ handled himself,” Ilitch said, notably omitting any admiration for how Luhnow has handled himself.
There is plenty of clowning to be done on the Tigers' hiring process. "About 30 minutes after the World Series' last out, my phone rang,'' Hinch said. In other words, the entire process, including interviews for deserving Black coaches like Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames, was more or less a sham, as Hinch was getting the job from the second it came open.
But the good new for the Tigers is that it could be worse. They didn’t hire a player-alienating boss like Tony La Russa, which is exactly what the best team in their division did. "The White Sox did us a big favor,” one Tigers official said, according to The Athletic. There are a lot of problems with the Hinch hire. You can’t say it actively helped other teams in obvious ways.
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