What we learned from Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch: A Justin Verlander return in 2022?

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The Detroit Tigers announced AJ Hinch as the team’s new manager Friday, jumpstarting a fresh&nbsp;era of the rebuild, which general manager Al Avila is now describing to his staffers as a "building stage," with top prospects ready to emerge.” data-reactid=”6″>The Detroit Tigers announced AJ Hinch as the team’s new manager Friday, jumpstarting a fresh era of the rebuild, which general manager Al Avila is now describing to his staffers as a “building stage,” with top prospects ready to emerge.

Hinch signed his contract with the Tigers around 1:15 p.m. and was introduced at 2 p.m. In the age of COVID-19, he fielded questions over a video conference call from Comerica Park.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="For subscribers:&nbsp;Four things Detroit Tigers’ A.J. Hinch must do now that he’s manager” data-reactid=”8″>For subscribers: Four things Detroit Tigers’ A.J. Hinch must do now that he’s manager

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The 46-year-old has a career 570-452 managerial record in parts of seven seasons with the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks from 2009-19.” data-reactid=”13″>The 46-year-old has a career 570-452 managerial record in parts of seven seasons with the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks from 2009-19.

Here are three things we learned from Hinch’s introductory news conference.

A true professional

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Hinch comes to the Tigers with major baggage. He is fresh off a year-long suspension from MLB for his role in the 2017 Astros sign-stealing plot, which led to a World Series championship. His hire comes with scrutiny, and rightfully so. He didn’t stop the actions led by his bench coach, Alex Cora, and a slew of players. While Hinch wasn’t an active participant, he simply looked the other way.” data-reactid=”16″>Hinch comes to the Tigers with major baggage. He is fresh off a year-long suspension from MLB for his role in the 2017 Astros sign-stealing plot, which led to a World Series championship. His hire comes with scrutiny, and rightfully so. He didn’t stop the actions led by his bench coach, Alex Cora, and a slew of players. While Hinch wasn’t an active participant, he simply looked the other way.

He admits his punishment was deserved.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="[ Explaining Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch’s role in Astros cheating scandal ]” data-reactid=”18″>[ Explaining Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch’s role in Astros cheating scandal ]

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="If Hinch wanted to jab at Cora and designated hitter Carlos Beltran, the masterminds behind the cheating, this was his biggest stage to do so. He took the high&nbsp;road in an&nbsp;MLB Network interview in February with Tom Verducci. On Friday, he did the same —no snarky comments, no jokes and not a peep about the involvement of anyone other than himself.” data-reactid=”19″>If Hinch wanted to jab at Cora and designated hitter Carlos Beltran, the masterminds behind the cheating, this was his biggest stage to do so. He took the high road in an MLB Network interview in February with Tom Verducci. On Friday, he did the same —no snarky comments, no jokes and not a peep about the involvement of anyone other than himself.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="And he was apologetic. Numerous times.” data-reactid=”20″>And he was apologetic. Numerous times.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="[ How Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch is owning Astros scandal: ‘Part of my story, not Tigers’ ]” data-reactid=”21″>[ How Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch is owning Astros scandal: ‘Part of my story, not Tigers’ ]

“I’m sorry that today that has to be a topic, and I understand why,” Hinch said. “This is such an exciting day for me and such an exciting day for the Tigers. But they’re real conversations when you get in these positions, and I talked to both of these men (Avila and owner Christopher Ilitch) and many other people in the organization throughout the process. They were very thorough. We all arrived at a partnership that we feel is going to take Tiger baseball into winning ways.”

Hinch is going to have to tackle these questions on a regular basis for the next few months, and maybe into the 2021 season, but he proved in his first news conference that he’s willing to take on these questions with an understanding he still has to earn trust.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="[ Detroit Tigers hiring A.J. Hinch should be a home run. But it isn’t ]” data-reactid=”24″>[ Detroit Tigers hiring A.J. Hinch should be a home run. But it isn’t ]

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="It's no secret. Former AL MVP and two-time Cy Young winner Justin Verlander loves Detroit. As a Tiger from 2005-17, he won the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year award, pitched the franchise to a pair of World Series appearances, got one of his two Cy Young awards and two of his three no-hitters.” data-reactid=”26″>It’s no secret. Former AL MVP and two-time Cy Young winner Justin Verlander loves Detroit. As a Tiger from 2005-17, he won the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year award, pitched the franchise to a pair of World Series appearances, got one of his two Cy Young awards and two of his three no-hitters.

Detroit is Verlander’s baseball home.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="[ Justin Verlander wins World Series with Detroit still close to his heart ]” data-reactid=”28″>[ Justin Verlander wins World Series with Detroit still close to his heart ]

Justin Verlander waves to the crowd as he walks off the field after the top of the eighth inning against the Pirates at Comerica Park, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017. Verlander threw eight innings of one-hit ball in the Tigers' 10-0 win.Justin Verlander waves to the crowd as he walks off the field after the top of the eighth inning against the Pirates at Comerica Park, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017. Verlander threw eight innings of one-hit ball in the Tigers' 10-0 win.

View photos

Justin Verlander waves to the crowd as he walks off the field after the top of the eighth inning against the Pirates at Comerica Park, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017. Verlander threw eight innings of one-hit ball in the Tigers’ 10-0 win.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The Tigers traded Verlander to the Astros, whom Hinch managed from 2015-19, for a trio of prospects in August 2017, igniting the franchise’s&nbsp;roster teardown. Verlander’s 2020 season was limited to one start because of Tommy John surgery, which is likely to cost him all of the 2021 season.” data-reactid=”49″>The Tigers traded Verlander to the Astros, whom Hinch managed from 2015-19, for a trio of prospects in August 2017, igniting the franchise’s roster teardown. Verlander’s 2020 season was limited to one start because of Tommy John surgery, which is likely to cost him all of the 2021 season.

Oh yeah, he becomes a free agent after next season.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Hinch said he has a "great relationship" with Verlander, who texted his former manager Friday morning to rave about "what Detroit is like when the team is winning."” data-reactid=”51″>Hinch said he has a “great relationship” with Verlander, who texted his former manager Friday morning to rave about “what Detroit is like when the team is winning.”

“There’s no place like it,” Verlander said to him, according to Hinch.

The idea of a Verlander-Tigers reunion makes sense, especially if Verlander is willing to take a pay cut to return to the organization where he built much of his Hall of Fame resume. And with Hinch on board as the manager, it seems quite possible.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Imagine this rotation: Verlander, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning. Toss in a top-dollar free-agent signing and the Tigers’ rotation could be dominant for the 2022 season.” data-reactid=”58″>Imagine this rotation: Verlander, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning. Toss in a top-dollar free-agent signing and the Tigers’ rotation could be dominant for the 2022 season.

Could Hinch haunt ChiSox?

The Chicago White Sox — regardless of whether their manager was Hinch or 76-year-old Tony La Russa — have a heck of a team: Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal. Their rotation includes standouts such as Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel and Dane Dunning.

White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu rounds the bases after hitting a three run home run off Rony Garcia in the fifth inning at Guaranteed Rate Field on Sept. 12, 2020, in Chicago.White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu rounds the bases after hitting a three run home run off Rony Garcia in the fifth inning at Guaranteed Rate Field on Sept. 12, 2020, in Chicago.

View photos

White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu rounds the bases after hitting a three run home run off Rony Garcia in the fifth inning at Guaranteed Rate Field on Sept. 12, 2020, in Chicago.

There aren’t many weak spots, but the roster needs a bit of seasoning from a top-notch manager. Hinch seemed to be the perfect fit. Except the White Sox landed on La Russa in a decision obviously forced by owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who fired La Russa in 1986 to the manager’s benefit and the White Sox’s detriment.

Does it make any sense? No, other than fixing a 34-year-old mistake.

What’s even more confusing, however, is that the White Sox didn’t even reach out to Hinch. They handed him to the Tigers.

“You’d have to ask the White Sox where they were,” Hinch said. “I never interviewed with the White Sox. Originally, those were the two managerial jobs, plus Boston, that were open. I had two teams that were interested, and I just knew they were interested. When the World Series ended, Al called, and I got on a plane not really knowing what was next.

“And, the White Sox, I never interviewed. I’m not sure what their process was or what their thought process was.”

If La Russa doesn’t work out and the Tigers leap over him and the ChiSox in the American League Central, White Sox fans will never forget this. The events of the past three days have the potential to change the hierarchy within the division for years.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.” data-reactid=”87″>Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: What we learned from Detroit Tigers’ AJ Hinch: A JV return in 2022?” data-reactid=”88″>This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: What we learned from Detroit Tigers’ AJ Hinch: A JV return in 2022?

Leave a Reply