A.J. Hinch is back in the dugout.
Nearly a year after Major League Baseball levied a one-season suspension on him over the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal, Hinch was named manager of the Detroit Tigers on Friday.
The Tigers announced they agreed to a multi-year contract with Hinch. He will take over for Ron Gardenhire, who retired toward the end of the 2020 season.
“I’d like to thank [Tigers chairman] Chris Ilitch and Al Avila for giving me a chance and the opportunity to get back in the dugout to lead this historic ballclub,” Hinch said in a news release. “The last year was the most difficult of my life. It gave me time to reflect, which was such a big part of this process. Everything that has transpired over the past year, personally and professionally, has put so much in perspective for me, and re-enforced how important it is to do things with integrity and honesty.
“My feelings towards baseball are the same that so many Detroiters have for this team. Through thick and thin you always care about it and rely on it to be there as a part of your life, and I’m so proud to play a role in growing that tradition here with the Tigers. 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. It’s time to start playing winning baseball, and I am confident this organization is positioned to make that happen.”
Ilitch added: “On behalf of all of us with the Tigers, I’d like to welcome A.J. and his family back to the Detroit community. Throughout the interview process it was clear that A.J. had learned from his situation in recent months, and it has changed him in profound ways. Quite frankly, it’s exactly what we wanted and needed to hear. A.J. provides a wealth of knowledge and experience, and we’re proud to have him lead our team. Additionally, I’d like to commend Al Avila and his staff on conducting a thorough and professional search process and know that they landed on the right person to be our manager. Tigers fans have high expectations for their baseball team, and all of us in the organization are confident that today’s announcement is a big step towards returning to the on-field success they deserve.”
Missing from the Tigers’ statements were anything about Hinch’s departure in Houston.
The Astros fired Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for their roles in the cheating scandal that rocked baseball last year. Both Hinch and Luhnow served a one-season ban as punishment.
Hinch apologized in January for his role.
Houston came under intense scrutiny late last year when former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers and other unnamed sources revealed to The Athletic that the team used a sophisticated system to steal signs given by an opposing team’s catcher to his pitcher.
Houston allegedly had a camera set up in centerfield, which was hooked up to a monitor in the clubhouse, and when a sign for an off-speed pitch was given, a team employee would relay the message to a hitter with loud banging in the dugout.
Two sources told The Athletic that the sign-stealing extended into the postseason in 2017, but another denied it went on that long.
Houston won the World Series in 2017, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games.
The Tigers lauded Hinch for his baseball acumen. He was 481-329 in five seasons with the Astros.
Detroit has been one of the worst teams in baseball but has a deep prospect pipeline that could see the team improve dramatically in a couple of years.