A closer look at Houston's winning manager

AJ Hinch continues to be the driving force of Astros success

Jason Behnken / Getty Images

With the win on Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs, AJ Hinch hit a milestone; 500 managerial wins. While that doesn't have him climbing to the top of the all-time manager win chart just yet, it does keep him moving up the list of best Astros managers.

The 2019 team is battered and beaten right now with injuries, yet still, they keep winning. Undeniably a lot of that has to do with the team playing well and executing on the field, but it also takes a captain who can overcome adversity to keep the team's confidence high.

Great fit for Houston

Hinch took over the helm for the Astros in 2015, taking over a historically bad team that was just a year removed from three consecutive 100-plus loss seasons. AJ could have taken the first year with his new team to take things slow and learn more about the players and pile up small improvements to build on for future years. Instead, he had the Astros in the playoffs in that first year, a pleasant surprise for many despite the early exit.

2016 wasn't quite as successful, missing the playoffs but still posting a record above .500 on the season. Then, the year we all remember, 2017 was the magical year of Houston's first World Series win, the highlight of Hinch's career so far. 2018 was another impressive year, making it to the ALCS with nagging injuries before eventually being outed by the Red Sox. All of this makes it no surprise that Houston locked him up for several years, giving him an extension through the 2022 season.

Now in 2019, Hinch has Houston out to a hot 40-20 start, making the Astros one of the best teams in the league even with injuries, and definitely the best team when healthy.

Manager of the Year frontrunner

Speaking of that hot 40-20 start; we haven't even made it to the halfway point of the season, but it's fair to be thinking about the potential Manager of the Year contenders. There are some other candidates like the Twins' Rocco Baldelli, who is making a huge splash in his first year as a manager, and Aaron Boone who has willed the Yankees to a division lead while also being decimated by injuries, but Hinch deserves to be very much in those conversations.

Not only has Hinch worked through significant injuries to keep his team on top of their division, but they also currently flirt with the best record in baseball. The team is riddled with great talent that Hinch would probably say make it an easier task than most, but taking some of these younger guys that are making the leap from AAA to the majors and getting them to contribute immediately is the testament of a great manager.

Already one of the Astros' best managers, ever

Let's address the elephant in the room; Hinch has a ring, and that should easily be grounds for him being the best manager in Houston's history since he's alone in that feat. Still, there are some other statistics that he can and likely will improve on that will solidify him as the undisputed best manager in an Astros uniform so far.

First, let's talk about regular season performance. Hinch is 414-294 all time so far, putting him third on the list in wins behind Larry Dierker (1997-2001) who sits with 435 and Bill Virdon (1975-1982) who had 544. Hinch not only boasts the best winning percentage of the three at .584, but he will also almost certainly pass up Dierker for second place this year and Virdon before his contract runs out in 2022. I would say that has him a lock as being the best in this category by the time all is said and done.

Then, there's postseason performance. Hinch currently sits at 18-14 in his postseason career with the Astros, while Virdon went 4-6 and Dierker went 2-12. There's a lot more behind those records that I won't get into now, but for the sake of simplicity, that puts Hinch ahead in this category.

That leaves awards. The Manager of the Year award started in 1983, so Virdon was not able to win one in his tenure with Houston. Two managers since the awards' inception have received it for Houston, Hal Lanier in 1986, and Larry Dierker 1998. While Hinch has come very close, coming in second in voting in 2015, third in 2017, then fourth in 2018, he has not yet taken home that award. As mentioned before, he's currently well in the running for that award again in 2019, but even if he never gets one, the number of wins and playoff success he's had for the Astros should cement him as one of the greatest managers ever.

So, while recent injuries to this 2019 team have created some mild panic and concern, AJ Hinch has shown that a great manager (along with a great team) can sustain a little adversity and still come out ahead over a long baseball season. Even more exciting, he's also shown what a manager of his caliber can do with a healthy, star-studded lineup, which we should get to see once again in a few weeks when the team is healthy again.

"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

- William Shakespeare

You might wonder why there is a puppy picture on a story about the Astros scandal. This little beauty is my Dalmatian, Dynamo. Why is she here? To distract you. To dazzle you. Who doesn't love a puppy picture? Who cares if it has anything to do with the story? She made you look.

And the point is...

Sadly, that is the role of the media these days. Please listen to my rant. Please click on my story. Who cares if the headline isn't accurate? None of that matters. Look at me! I need likes and retweets!

The Astros cheating scandal is the latest story to be overblown, overanalyzed and overexposed. Why? Page views. Ratings. A failing media.

Exploring every angle

None of that is meant to excuse the team. Let's be honest; the Astros cheated. They will be punished, and they should. Draft picks, fines, suspensions. All are possible, and whatever they get is probably warranted.

And that is where the story should end. But that is not what the world is about anymore. It has to be endlessly debated. Pictures of a laptop on a table become the Zapruder film. There HAS to be a conspiracy. Every detail has to be debated. Which side you come down on depends on your biases.

Stupid takes

Some have even said the Astros should be stripped of their World Series title. This isn't college. It's a dumb, look at me take. It will never happen. This is not Avengers: Endgame where you can enter the quantum realm and change the past. It is real life, where events can't be changed. Did the cheating help them win? Who knows? You still have to hit the ball, even if you know what is coming. And it did not make a difference for the Astros pitchers. And harkening back to the steroid era, how do you know the other teams did not do it too and just did not get caught?

The big argument about PEDs was "oh, look at the big numbers the hitters put up." But how do you know the pitchers weren't doing it, too? The same goes here.

Truth is, you don't know. Which is why results can't and shouldn't be changed. Period. To suggest it is just dumb.

More stupid takes

On the Astros fan side, the defenses are just as silly. "They did nothing wrong. Where is your proof? Why aren't there other players coming forward?"

As an aside, let's not leave out the great misleading phrases. "Due diligence." (In other words, we know this is a bad idea, but we want to sound like we know what we are doing). "Witch hunt." (Yes, I am guilty, but this is how I deflect it).

As another aside, if you find an actual witch on your hunt, let me know. I always wanted to meet one.

They cheated. Period. And they will be punished. But the point is not that at all. It's to find every possible angle to get people to read and react. To care more about something than we should, when there are far more important things we should be riled up about. But you are being told to care, so you will keep clicking. It's the new normal, where reporters make themselves the stories and insert themselves into it. And that's why they turn stories like this into major issues. For their own benefit.

Nothing new

This is just the latest media distraction. The Patriots deflated balls saga was the most overplayed, overanalyzed scandal in sports history. Why was it so important? Because hot takes, web sites and analysts told us so. Many hinted at even bigger conspiracies. Why? Because we are a society dazzled by puppies.

Just this past weekend, the entire Colin Kaepernick story was over reported from all sides. The NFL was just doing a PR move. He just wants to be a martyr.

The NFL's waiver was broken down word by word.

Over a guy who hasn't played in three years.

The reason? He gets page views and clicks. And ratings. We keep getting told how important every aspect of the story is to our lives. In truth, it's just another distraction, a false narrative created to keep us dazzled and up in arms. Do we really care about these things? And if we do, what the hell is wrong with us?

Just like the Astros scandal. Is it a bad look? Of course. Are they guilty? Sure looks like it. But punish them and let's move on. We get it. They banged trashed cans. But punishment is never enough. People have to post pictures that might be something. Videos that might be something. Emails that might be something. Add it all up and it doesn't make things any worse. It just creates talking points. And people wonder why so many people consider the media - and social media, as the lines are completely blurred - "fake news."

In the end...

It's not fake news. It's misguided attempts to to keep us coming back for more. And too many of us fall into the trap. We are too distracted by everyone telling us these things are so important that we keep clicking. It takes on a life of its own, and then any theory is possible. Any conspiracy is possible. So we keep reading and digging and we are immersed in it. Look at this! Click on me! In a few weeks the Astros will be the most evil organization that ever lived and should be disbanded. And some of you will believe it and buy in, because that's how distractions work. And once we are distracted? We can believe anything.

Hence the picture of Dynamo. To distract you. By the way, did you notice one of her spots looks like Mickey Mouse? Let the Disney conspiracy begin. We shall start our own tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.

And we all know what that signifies.

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