The Astros have hired A.J. Hinch as their new manager. Houston Chronicle Astros beat writer Evan Drellich first reported that former big league player, manager, and front-office executive A.J. Hinch will be the next manager of the Houston Astros, replacing interim manager Tom Lawless, who took over for Bo Porter on September 1. Hinch, who most recently served as part of a temporary general manager triumvirate for the San Diego Padres after the dismissal of Josh Byrnes in June, had previously managed the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009 and 2010, though he failed to complete a season in either year, taking over for Bob Melvin in '09 and being replaced by Kirk Gibson in the latter.
Speaking at his introductory press conference Monday afternoon, Hinch's enthusiasm and excitement after landing the job stood out. As did his memory bank of sports cliches as he dropped in just about everyone in the big book of sports cliches.
"To know me is to know I like winning," Hinch said, according to Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle. "I like to compete. I see great things ahead for the Houston Astros." Hinch didn't appear fazed at all by the negative publicity that has surrounded the Astros this season, or the breakdown in communication within the organization that led to Porter's firing in September.
"A team means everybody together, everybody on board," he said.
As for Houston's lack of on-field success in recent seasons, Hinch believes the Astros have plenty of talent and a bright future. He acknowledged the club has taken its fair share of lumps, but believes this will better serve the players moving forward.
In regards to rookie first baseman Jonathan Singleton, for example, who endured a tough first year in MLB, Hinch stated, "As rough of a September as Singleton had, that's building character."
"Do I want to shock the world?" Hinch asked. "Of course I do."
Hinch's initial chance as a manager was greeted with some skepticism, as he was just 35 years old and but five years removed from his major league playing career as a catcher with the A's, Royals, Tigers, and Phillies. He was at that point in his fourth season as the Diamondbacks' director of player development. His background as a Stanford graduate (with a B.S. in psychology) was touted as an asset, but his ability to command the respect of his players without managerial or coaching experience was widely questioned.
The Diamondbacks terminated both Hinch and then-GM Byrnes on July 2, 2010. Hinch, perhaps conceding that his lack of experience played a part in his firing, said at one point, "This group hasn't responded that well to me." Since that time, Hinch has been employed exclusively in an off-the-field capacity with the Padres, serving as Byrnes' vice-president and assistant general manager after joining the organization as vice-president of professional scouting, where he assisted Byrnes with "roster composition, player acquisitions, talent evaluations, and contract negotiations." He departed the organization following the hiring of A.J. Preller as Byrnes' permanent replacement in August.