In the wake of Tuesday’s decision to restructure the front office, the influence of AJ Hinch on the Detroit Tigers organization is strong and growing.
When AJ Hinch chose to take the Detroit Tigers manager job this past offseason, many fans and analysts around the MLB questioned why he would come to Detroit instead of joining forces with a more contention-ready roster or a more analytics-driven organization. If AJ had his sights set on greater influence than merely managing a clubhouse and lineup card, it seems as though he’s found it in Detroit.
As a fan, it’s really easy to appreciate the work that AJ Hinch has done in such a short time in Detroit. All within a year of being hired, he’s brought together a tremendous staff headlined by young pitching coach prodigy Chris Fetter, won over the fanbase and players, and facilitated the development of several bright spots on an otherwise pretty grotesque roster, including Akil Baddoo, Eric Haase and the trio of young starting pitchers.
For the first time in GM Al Avila’s tenure, we’re seeing player development at the major league level in a tangible way. Some players actually want to play in Detroit – look at Jonathan Schoop. It’s all so refreshing after what has been a brutal five-year stretch of organizational incompetence, and much of it can be attributed to the work of Hinch and his staff.
All of the work Hinch has done on the field and in the clubhouse is great, but we may have witnessed his biggest move yet on Tuesday. The Tigers announced a flurry of structural changes to the organization, including the promotions of analytics guru Jay Sartori and former baseball operations analyst Sam Menzin to assistant GM roles. Maybe even more notably, longtime scouting and player development cogs David Chadd and Dave Littlefield have been banished to special assistant roles. This move is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for the organization and one that has been met with practically unanimous approval from the fanbase.
Of course, we as fans can’t be sure whether Hinch was directly involved in the decision-making of organizational restructuring of this magnitude, but make no mistake – this has his fingerprints all over it.
Hinch has shown in his short time in Detroit that he’s an invaluable asset. Though we still aren’t sure about the specifics, the opt-out clause in his contract remains looming over the head of GM Al Avila. It seems as though the Tigers brass is beginning to understand that Hinch is their golden ticket to winning baseball.
The organizational changes we saw Tuesday are the changes of a GM who is not only trying to prove to his manager, who he very clearly knows he needs, that the organization is committed to winning but maybe.. just maybe.. also a GM who is beginning to grasp what a winning organization looks and feels like in the shadows of Hinch’s influence. Regardless of who made the call to revamp the org structure, the pressure is on for Al Avila. It’s go time for the Detroit Tigers and Avila better match the energy we’ve seen from Hinch, or else the Tigers will find someone else who will.