The Detroit Tigers interviewed former Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch for the open spot in their dugout on Thursday, according to a report from MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Hinch, who previously spent five years with the Houston Astros and won the 2017 World Series, has been rumored to be the Tigers’ top target from the moment former skipper Ron Gardenhire resigned prior to the end of the 2020 season.
But it isn’t that Hinch interviewed that is important; it’s when. Hinch was suspended by Major League Baseball for the entirety of the 2020 season for his role in the Astros’ sign stealing scandal. The Tigers have been interviewing candidates for the past few weeks, even while the postseason was in full swing, but until the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched their World Series title on Tuesday evening, Hinch was still suspended and, as far as we can tell, not eligible to interview. That the Tigers brought him in for an interview less than 48 hours after the final out of Game 6 says that, despite the wide net they have cast, this is Hinch’s job if he wants it.
It certainly helps that the Chicago White Sox looked elsewhere for their new manager — though not without some thinking Hinch was a sure bet, it seems — but, as Brandon put it earlier today, Hinch may have found Detroit a better fit regardless.
For Hinch, who played his major league ball in the first decade of the century, a return to Detroit would be a return to a level of authority and decision-making influence more like that he was familiar with during his playing days. That alone has to be somewhat attractive after watching his charges run roughshod over him with the help of the Astros front office. Whatever the outcome, his fingerprints would be all over the Tigers as they attempt to dig their way out of bottom dweller status. He’s also familiar with the city and the front office leadership, having played for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Tigers both under Dave Dombrowski front offices in which Al Avila was a key executive.
Also working in Detroit’s favor is the simple lack of available jobs. Following Tony La Russa’s hire in Chicago, the Tigers and Boston Red Sox are the only other teams currently looking for a new manager. Boston seems to be interested in a reunion with Alex Cora, leaving Detroit as Hinch’s only destination if he wants to manage again in 2020. He was certainly successful enough in Houston to warrant interest if he sits out for another year, but with the Tigers currently on the upswing of their rebuild (we hope), this may be too attractive an opportunity for Hinch to pass up.
Sources: Former Astros Manager A.J. Hinch is widely regarded as the favorite to become the next manager of the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers are said to be making decisive progress toward finalizing their choice of manager.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 29, 2020