Nov. 17, 2020

Getting a Second Chance

Getting a Second Chance

Baseball is a very humbling game. Players come and go, but the mutual respect for the game never goes away. I, unfortunately, never got to play the game past high school, but I still have a passion for the game even as an adult. Little kids may get excited in a candy store, but I get excited going to the ballpark! 

As we all know, the 2020 season had its trials and tribulations, starting with the whole sign-stealing scandal created by the Houston Astros. A scandal that took Major League Baseball by storm was far worse than the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Major League Baseball handed down their fines and suspensions to a trio of people, with former Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, former Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch, and former Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora. With those three out of the league for the season, baseball could begin to repair the damage caused by an organization that seemed to take the league to another level with their analytics. 

Now, without reliving the whole season again, we can fast forward to the end of the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers winning it all in 2020.  The World Series has just ended, and all three men that I mentioned above are no longer suspended from the league and hoping a phone call will come their way with an opportunity to get a second chance to be a part of the game that is indeed very humbling, the only burning question is “how long will that take?”

Thirty minutes after the conclusion of the World Series, AJ Hinch got that very call he was waiting for, and it was from the Detroit Tigers. Now, I originally had Hinch going to the Chicago White Sox. The move made sense because the White Sox were coming off their first postseason appearance since 2008. This is a young team chalked full of talent that can definitely make a push to contend for a World Series championship in the next couple of seasons, and Hinch would have been a perfect fit for this organization. 

Another reason that I felt that Hinch would have been a good fit for the White Sox because owner Jerry Reinsdorf wanted a manager who had postseason experience within the last few years. Many writers and bloggers, including myself, had linked either Hinch or Alex Cora to the position. Granted, both men were coming off suspensions but given their recent success in the postseason, whether you like it or not, they have been there and have won. So, it made sense to include them in the talks for this position. Reinsdorf threw probably the best curveball I have ever seen and hired Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russia to the position. What? I did not see that one coming, and neither did anyone else. Needless to say, Reinsdorf and the White Sox did the Detroit Tigers a favor by hiring La Russia.  

With the White Sox managerial search concluded, the Detroit Tigers jumped at the chance and hired Hinch. I think is a great hire because Hinch is a manager that is familiar with the analytics and will be able to use his experience from his previous stops to guide this Tigers team to the postseason in the next few seasons. Now, the target will be on his back due to the whole situation in Houston, but that should not be a cloud that hangs over him forever. The Tigers will be vigilant in making sure that what happened in Houston will ever happen in Detroit. I am also sure Hinch will not let it happen either. The Tigers are a young but talented team that will succeed with Hinch at the helm. 

If we look back at the two other stops with Hinch as the manager, Arizona, and Houston, we can see the difference in what a good team and a bad team will do to a manager’s career. We saw in Arizona that when trying to manage a team with little talent, Hinch was not given much to work with, which ultimately led to him being fired. When he arrived in Houston, he inherited a team with a roster that was primed to start winning very soon, and it did. Three trips to the American League Champions Series, two pennants (2017 and 2019), and a World Series Championship (2017). The Tigers are on the verge of contending. With young pitchers like Casey Mize and Spencer Turnbull leading this rotation, we cannot forget their young first-round pick from 2020, Spencer Torkelson. This is a team that we all will be talking about very soon. I cannot wait to see what is in store for the Detroit Tigers and AJ Hinch. I believe this will be great for everyone, including Hinch.

Now, we can turn our attention to Alex Cora. Cora, like Hinch, was suspended for the 2020 season for his part in the sign-stealing scandal in Houston while he was a bench coach for the Astros. I already know this; Cora going back to the Red Sox was always a possibility in my mind because it made sense. Cora had the support from the players from the day he left to his announcement this week that he was returning to manage the Red Sox. The players love playing for him, and rightfully so. Cora is a player's manager. 

There was always the possibility that the Red Sox ownership and Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom would go in a different direction and start with a clean slate and hire someone with no ties to the organization. Sam Fuld is the Player Information Coordinator for the Philadelphia Phillies and was a strong candidate for the position if the Red Sox had not opted to bring back Cora. 

With Hinch and Cora back in baseball on what is clearly their second and last opportunity, both of these men will be better, more effective leaders for their organizations. I know most do not like them being back in baseball, and I can understand why, but everyone deserves a second chance to right their wrongdoings. When I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, baseball is a humbling game, and it is indeed. Sometimes, things get taken for granted, and people tend to stray from their beliefs, but ultimately, when one door closes, and another opens, we have the opportunity to learn and grow from our mistakes. Second chances are an opportunity to grow and learn, and I feel that both AJ Hinch and Alex Cora have grown during their absence from baseball and will be better leaders both on and off the field.

Rip Griffin is an independent, freelance opinion writer that likes to write as a hobby. He is also the host of The Rip Griffin Show. The show airs live on Thursday nights at 9 pm EST/8 pm CST. You can find the show on all the major podcast platforms as well as on YouTube. You can follow Rip on Twitter @ripgriffin2.