Why A.J. Hinch?

added 10/2/2014 by Greg Thurston

Editor's note: AstrosDaily gladly welcomes Greg Thurston as a staff columnist. Thurston has previously written for "Climbing Tal's Hill" and is a lifelong Astros fan.

When the Astros fired Bo Porter, the search for a new manager began immediately - if not sooner. Porter was beginning to have some success on the field but his inability to mesh with General Manager Jeff Luhnow meant it was time to go. Interim manager Tom Lawless experienced success early on but couldn't make it last.

From my point of view, both managers had good traits and bad.

Porter, known for his "football mentality", instilled a certain amount of fear that served as motivation for his players. That's a valuable quality in a manager, but sometimes he took it too far. For example, telling the press that he asked Matt Dominguez if he thought he was invisible after making a base-running mistake. As for Porter's in-game decision making skills, in my opinion they were well below average.

Lawless proved to be an outstanding in-game tactician, especially as it pertained to making timely pitching changes. And, although the clubhouse took on a more relaxed feel when Lawless took over, the players seemed to become almost too relaxed over time. The edginess that Porter brought subsided.

To me, finding a manager with the ability to combine the best qualities of Porter and Lawless should have been priority number one. But I don't run the team. Jeff Luhnow had his own set of qualifications for the Astros' new skipper.

Luhnow claimed to be looking for someone with big league experience as either a manager or a bench coach. The GM also said "We want to move quickly, but at the end of the day, we want to get it right." The former has been accomplished. The latter, of course, remains to be seen.

Luhnow has already gone on record saying "I think A.J. is going to be the manager here when we win the World Series," but other baseball insiders have been critical of the hire. Hinch's first stint as a manager, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, was anything but successful. Terms like "overmatched" and "clubhouse revolt" have been used when describing Hinch's first go-round as a field general. One unnamed executive reportedly referred to him as "one of the worst managerial candidates ever".

Obviously, Hinch's experience as a high-ranking baseball executive and Farm Director appealed to Luhnow. In his most recent job, with the Padres, Hinch temporarily took on the role of general manager. Hinch negotiated a number of trade deadline deals for the Padres before resigning the post shortly after the hiring of A.J. Preller in August.

That sort of experience has to be what put Hinch over the top in the eyes of Luhnow. The ability for the two men to communicate should be heightened by Hinch's understanding of what it's like to be in Luhnow's shoes. That comfort level equates to a huge roll of the dice for Luhnow. If that roll comes up "snake eyes", Luhnow could be looking for a new job the next time there is a managerial change.