If you had Jerry Reinsdorf acting like a major market owner and firing Rick Renteria on your 2020 Bingo card, you win! The organization shocked the baseball world and fan base by moving on from the 'mediocre at best' manager Ricky Renteria on Monday morning. As we all collectively dealt with the shock of the news, and having to constantly refresh Twitter to make sure it was real, several other nuggets on the team's future emerged from Rick Hahn.
First, the idea that Ricky had control of the clubhouse and the backing of the players was seriously called into question:
Hearing that veteran players took umbrage to Renteria's handling of players was an interesting nugget, given that we've been constantly told one of his most redeeming qualities as babysitter, I mean manager, was that he held the room together. Rick Hahn specifically mentioned speaking with Tim Anderson this morning about the coming change, which I found interesting given Ricky's penchant for benching Timmy early in his career for lackadaisical play or not hustling. We all know Timmy is the heart and soul of this team, that leads me to believe Timmy was in favor of this move.
Following this exchange, Hahn was asked about what qualities he is looking for in his next manager. What followed was a response, I never would've expected:
I did a double take when I heard this. The idea of the White Sox looking for a manager that has had previous success is so foreign to me that I didn't know how to respond. Shortly thereafter, a series of tweets from some prominent national baseball observers echoed a few names the juggernaut Ken Rosenthal mentioned above:
Having three prominent national baseball voices mention the name AJ Hinch in association with the White Sox is something I'm still struggling to grasp. Hinch as we know, will come with some serious baggage. He was the manager in charge of the Houston Astros during their infamous cheating scandal in 2017.
Reaction on social media to Hinch has been a mixed bag, much to my surprise at this point. I've seen a decent amount of people within the fanbase saying they want no part of Hinch or Cora for their role in the Astros sign stealing operations. With several assessing more blame to Hinch, despite reports that Cora was one of the ring leaders of the operation.
Hinch reportedly was said to have disapproved of the operation. MLB issued a statement on the matter upon the completion of its investigation:
From MLB’s release:
Hinch attempted to signal his disapproval of the scheme by physically damaging the monitor on two occasions, necessitating its replacement. However, Hinch admits he did not stop it and he did not notify players or Cora that he disapproved of it, even after the Red Sox were disciplined in September 2017. Similarly, he knew of and did not stop the communication of sign information from the replay review room, although he disagreed with this practice as well and specifically voiced his concerns on at least one occasion about the use of the replay phone for this purpose.
Personally, I think this would be an easier sell to the fanbase and the organization than Cora, who played an integral part in the scheme. Hinch certainly deserves blame for not ultimately putting a stop to the operation, while being in a position of power to do so. This is akin to a parent finding his teenager drinking a beer and letting him know how disappointed he is and taking the rest of his beers without actually disciplining the child. I think we all know in those circumstances, the behavior will repeat itself if the hammer doesn't ultimately come down from the authority figure.
Look, I'm in favor of the Sox making this move to bring in Hinch if that's the direction they ultimately decide to go. He was the manager of a very successful team, and I don't think you can attribute all of that to their sign stealing scheme. He has spent time in a front office as a scout, and is well versed in modern analytics (an area this team still lags behind). He spent time as a player, and a catcher, so he understands the dynamics of managing a pitching staff and, from afar, seemed to do a good job of handling a staff.
AJ Hinch really checks all the boxes for a modern day manager. Does he come with some stains on his record? Unquestionably. However, for far too long this White Sox organization has been focused on bringing in nice guys with squeaky clean images and what do they have to show for it? Hint: not much. I don't look to sports for my morality, so if bringing in a manager of Hinch's caliber will get them into the playoffs consistently and give them a chance to hold another parade, I'll balance that with his past transgressions.
Moreover, people can grow from their mistakes. For all we know, Hinch is sincere when he says he wishes he did more to stop what was going on in Houston. He's a quality manager, and he has served his punishment. If the White Sox believe he is the right man for the job, they should hire him.
Brining in Hinch also signals something else to me. They are serious about trying to win in 2021. I don't think this organization eats the money on Renteria's deal and brings in a manager like Hinch, if they don't expect to be a viable contender. At the same time, I don't think an accomplished manager like Hinch comes here if he doesn't get assurances that this team will be serious about fielding a competitive roster. If the plan is Nomar Mazara in right field, with Reynaldo Lopez in the rotation, I don't think he's taking the job.
The bigger question is, will a manager like Hinch help this team in securing potential free agent options like Michael Brantley, or longshot George Springer? Ultimately, Jerry Reinsdorf opening up the checkbook for players of this caliber will be the deciding factor, but having a previous manager they played for can't hurt the recruiting pitch.
All things considered, today the White Sox acted like a big boy organization. They trimmed some of the organizational fat and are signaling that they are serious about being a viable contender in 2020 if they bring in an accomplished manager. In these trying times that 2020 has brought us, I never thought I'd be writing about the White Sox acting like a serious organization.