The staff here at TBOH bringing you Philadelphia Phillies coverage year-round was polled for their choices on the biggest awards in Major League Baseball for the 2015 season, and our consensus selection as the American League Manager of the Year was Houston Astros skipper A.J. Hinch.
Hinch finished 2nd to Minnesota Twins skipper Paul Molitor in The Sporting News AL Manager of the Year selection process, edged out in that voting which polls 27 peer managers across Major League Baseball. Hinch was the choice of five of our six staffers, with Molitor receiving no votes.
An Iowa native, Hinch’s family moved to Oklahoma when he was just 8 years of age, and that is where he grew up. He began his professional baseball career after being selected by the Oakland A’s in the 3rd round of the 1996 MLB Amateur Draft out of Stanford University. Less than two years later, Hinch had become the Athletics’ starting catcher at the big league level.
That 1998 season would prove to be Hinch’s most successful as a Major Leaguer. He appeared in 120 games that year, but would never appear in more than 76 games in any of the rest of his seven seasons.
Hinch ended his career as a player with four games for the 2004 Philadelphia Phillies.
(Photo credit: Getty Images)
His career as a big league player wrapped up with four games for the 2004 Phillies in which he hit just .182 in 11 plate appearances. The following season, Hinch caught for the Phillies at AAA, and then retired as a player.
While still a player, Hinch attended the 2003 General Managers meetings in November, and began seriously preparing himself for his post-playing career. The Arizona Diamondbacks hired him after the 2005 season to manage their minor league operations, and in 2006 he became the DBacks’ director of player development.
Widely considered one of the game’s rising front office prospects, he was hired at the field level as Arizona’s big league manager, replacing Bob Melvin in May of 2009. At age 34, he was the youngest skipper in Major League Baseball at that time.
That job would prove to be his last in Arizona, and it wouldn’t last long. He was fired the following July 1st, finishing with an 89-123 record. But Hinch didn’t stay unemployed for long. In late September he was hired as the San Diego Padres VP of pro scouting, a job that he would hold for the next four years.
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A month and a half after resigning his Padres’ position, Hinch was hired as the manager of the Houston Astros. It would prove to be a good call by the Houston brass. Still just 41 years of age himself, Hinch proved the perfect fit for a young, emerging ball club.
Hinch guided the Astros to an 86-76 finish and second place in the American League West Division, just two games behind division-winning Texas, a game ahead of the Angels for the final AL Wildcard playoff slot. It was Houston’s best finish since 2008, and the franchise’ first postseason appearance since the 2005 pennant winners.
In the postseason, the Astros shut the New York Yankees out in the Wildcard Game behind a gem from ace Dallas Keuchel. They then took a two games to one lead over the eventual world champion Kansas City Royals in the ALDS, but lost leads in both the second and fourth games before bowing in five.
While the Astros did not face the Phillies in the 2015 season, Hinch did manage the Diamondbacks against the club back in the 2009-10 campaigns. In late July at Chase Field, the Phils took two of three games. Then in mid-August, the Phillies swept the DBacks under Hinch enroute to their 2nd straight NL pennant. The Phillies then took two of three in April of 2010, giving Hinch a career 2-7 mark against them.
There have been numerous rumors swirling regarding Hinch’s future, particularly involving the open Los Angeles Dodgers managerial position. However, Hinch is under contract to Houston, and appears to be happy. As quoted recently by the Houston Chronicle’s Even Drellich, “I am happy with what we built here, and I enjoy the relationships I’ve developed with our players,” Hinch said.
The likelihood is that Hinch will continue to help develop this budding contender as more young talent blossoms at the big league level over the next couple of seasons. With 25-year olds George Springer and Jose Altuve, and 20-year old TBOH AL Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa leading the way, the Astros should remain contenders for years to come.
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