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John Niyo: A.J. Hinch is taking a chance on Tigers, as well

By John Niyo, The Detroit News on

Published in Baseball

DETROIT — Maybe they're taking a chance. But so is he. And, yes, you can argue the Tigers are risking their reputation with this move. But have you looked at American League standings the last few years? A.J. Hinch is, too.

Say what you want about the Tigers' hiring of Hinch as their next manager, fresh off a yearlong suspension for his role in the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal. But now that the team has made it official, quickly announcing the deal Friday afternoon, understand this: The risk here is a shared one, between a down-on-its-luck franchise and a man in search of a second chance.

That hardly makes this a perfect fit, though it may well be when all is said and done, just as it was for the Astros not that long ago. But it does make it an opportunistic one, and that's OK. Especially in the game of baseball, where cheating is as old as the sport itself.

The fact that both parties are bringing some baggage with them to this marriage probably gives it a better chance of succeeding, honestly. And what the hiring itself says about the Tigers' trajectory should be encouraging to fans, even those put off by the optics here.

Hinch's arrival adds a measure of credibility to the Tigers' rebuild, whether you want to admit it or not. Because he's been here, and done that, and no amount of trash-can banging or handwringing about it can erase the experience he gained in shepherding the Astros out of the darkness they endured at the start of the last decade.

A team that lost more than 100 games each season from 2011-13 went on to post five consecutive winning seasons under Hinch in Houston, the last three of which saw the Astros pile up 100-plus wins annually while claiming three division titles, two AL pennants and a World Series title.

 

Al Avila's long-shot bid to build a championship roster from scratch here in Detroit isn't quite that far along, obviously. And that's where Hinch, who was managing in Game 7 of the World Series exactly one year ago Friday, is taking a leap of faith, that the pipeline in Detroit is full of the same type of premium-grade crude that turned the Astros into a gusher.

Or at least that it will be soon enough, with the likes of Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal having made their major league debuts this summer and some booming bats on the way — we think — in Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson, along with the draft capital that comes with the No. 3 overall pick in 2021.

"Having a talented young core of players, dedicated leadership group and passionate fan base was exactly what I was looking for in a team, and it's clear we have that here in Detroit," Hinch said in the Tigers' release Friday. "It's time to start playing winning baseball, and I am confident this organization is positioned to make that happen."

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