Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A.J.Hinch and the meaning of leadership

The commissioner's office decapitated the Houston Astros organization Monday in the sign-stealing scandal. Banished for a year are Jeff Ludnow, the director of baseball operations who designed and executed the tear-down and buildup that has resulted in three consecutive 100-win seasons, and A.J. Hinch, the manager who carried out Ludnow's vision on the field. About an hour after the announcement, the Astros owner, Jim Crane, fired both of them.

Also banished for at least year -- he'll have to reapply for reinstatement -- is the Astros' former assistant general manager, Brandon Trautman, earlier fired for ... well, basically a gratuitous defense of employing a domestic abuser and then lying about it.

The purpose of the punishment should be to keep other teams from doing what the Astros did -- using electronic surveillance to steal on-field signals in real time. I'm not sure, harsh as the suspensions may be, that this is enough. The Astros won a World Series doing this, and the flag flies forever. Maybe these suspensions will effectively end the baseball careers of Ludnow and Hinch, but I expect Hinch will manage a major league team again, and Ludnow may well get another rebuilding job.

But beyond that, I find myself fascinated by Hinch's apparent unwillingness -- or inability -- to curtail an activity that he disapproved. The report issued by the commissioner's office says the scheme was devised and carried out by players and then-bench coach (now Boston manager) Alex Cora. Hinch apparently didn't like it, didn't want it, and twice damaged the monitor used in the scheme (which was promptly replaced), but never explicitly forbade it.

Why? My guess -- purely a guess -- is that his reading of the clubhouse was that he would lose too many important figures if he ordered the sign stealing ended. Carlos Beltran -- now the manager of the New York Mets -- was a driving force behind the project. Cora was the engineer. It was easier for Hinch to go along with them than to impose his authority and risk their displeasure/alienation. He let the followers lead.

And I find myself thinking of Whitey Herzog running Ted Simmons out of St. Louis when he took over the Cardinals. Simmons, who had become something of a civic figure in St. Louis, resisted Herzog's authority, and Herzog didn't hesitate to get rid of him, star or not. Hinch wouldn't, couldn't, didn't, deal as forthrightly with Beltran.

And now Hinch is gone. Cora, clearly, will be gone from Boston soon; the report is particularly damning on him. Beltran faces no official sanction, but starts his own managerial career with this shadowing him.


  1. So, do you think the Twins did something similar? I think not but I wouldn't be entirely surprised. I doubt if the Twins would of done this kind of cheating under Ryan. This FO, I am not so sure. Still the timeline is probably wrong. They only came to the Twins for the 2017 season. It would be kind of unlikely that they would install or even permit the kind cheating the Astros were doing immediately. By the end of 2017 Manfred had made it clear there would penalties for this kind of cheating.

    Hopefully this FO was smarter than the Astros and others were.