The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Baseball Blog

May 13, 2009

A.J. Hinch

The Arizona Diamondbacks raised a considerable number of eyebrows around baseball late last week by replacing Bob Melvin as manager with A.J. Hinch.

The immediate objection is that Hinch has never managed on any level, or even been a coach. He spent pieces of seven years in the majors as a catcher, generally as a backup, then moved into front office work. He was the farm director for Arizona when they made him manager — the Twins version of the job is held, as it has been for decades, by Jim Rantz.

I suspect that the jeers — the Arizona Republic, in its game story on Hinch's first victory, said Hinch is viewed as the Sarah Palin of managers — has less to do with his lack of managerial experience and more to do with his front office background.

There is, for most teams, a certain amount of friction between the front office and the manager. Yes, they're supposed to work together, but the front office often has different priorities than the manager. It might be important to the GM that this rookie play everyday, and the manager might believe that he's got a better chance of winning tonight's game if he plays the veteran. The manager might be eager to pull the plug on a free-agent signing, and the front office might want to give the move more time. This friction is normal; when it gets too intense, somebody has to leave.

The D'backs have made a major commitment to their young players. Chris Young. Justin Upton. Stephen Drew. Mark Reynolds. Max Scherzer. Tony Pena. Conor Jackson. ... This commitment is rooted in necessity; the franchise is still reeling, financially, from the spentthrift ways of the original ownership, which drove the operation to the brink of bankruptcy in winning the 2001 World Series. Young players are cheaper.

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