All-Star Worthy

Why is no one talking about Collin McHugh?

McHugh is on roll right now. Collin McHugh/Facebook

The big conversation regarding the Astros’ bullpen has been circled around Ken Giles. Let’s put the Giles conversation aside and talk about another member of the Astros’ bullpen. Collin McHugh’s numbers alone can vouch for a spot in the All-Star game. 

His notable pitching isn’t a new thing; McHugh led the team in ERA after his first season with the Astros in 2014. Fast forward to the 2017 postseason, McHugh is on a World Series champions’ roster. McHugh was left off of the roster for the ALDS, but made appearances against the Yankees and in the memorable Game 5 of the World Series. Despite an underwhelming performance, McHugh is proving to be an impressive and reliable part of the bullpen for the 2018 Astros.

McHugh has appeared in 27 games and pitched 40 innings in 2018. AJ Hinch has an obvious trust with the 31-year-old pitcher based on his stable position in the starting rotation last season. However, a relief spot is a different story. Hinch has seen his relief pitcher rack up 52 strikeouts with a 0.90 ERA. This ERA is good enough for second amongst all AL relief pitchers. In fact, the Astros have four of the top 20 AL relief ERAs with Héctor Rondón (1.44), Chris Devenski (1.57), and Brad Peacock (2.25).

McHugh is beginning to appear in more intense situations as he continues to prove himself through the season. He pitched three innings in a tie game against the Texas Rangers on July 4th, giving up one hit and struck out one. McHugh stayed on the mound through the ninth inning, earning the win with the help of Giles’ tenth-inning save. This road win is McHugh’s 15th road appearance in which he’s maintained a 0.71 and struck out 29 over 25.1 IP.

If the numbers aren’t enough to convince you that McHugh deserves an All-Star spot this season, ask Lance McCullers Jr., Joe Musgrove, and a lot of the Astros Twitter fanbase. McCullers Jr. tells his Twitter followers,

“I’M ONLY GOING TO SAY THIS ONCE…. SO LISTEN UP…. IF @Collin_McHugh ISN’T IN THE 2018 ALL-STAR GAME… THEN CANCEL THE GAME… IDC ABOUT ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE BEST PERFORMERS EARNING THEIR #ASG NOD AND HE DESERVES IT x1000 @MLB @astros #asgworthy.”

Collin McHugh has absolutely proved himself as an All-Star pitcher and is giving AJ Hinch some assurance from the bullpen that has been struggling throughout the season. As long as he can continue performing at this level, Hinch may see him as a trustworthy option in high-leverage situations come playoff time.

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Composite photo by Jack Brame

Former Astros manager Andrew Jay Hinch is on a short list of candidates to become manager of the Detroit Tigers in 2021.

The question is, after being suspended and later fired for his role in the Astros sign-stealing scandal, does A.J. Hinch deserve to manage again in baseball?

It's weird to think because so much has happened in 2020, but Hinch was suspended and fired only nine months ago. His banishment, however, ends in a matter of weeks with the final out of the upcoming World Series. At that point, he will be available to manage the Tigers or any other team. There's a possibility that the Mets are interested. Some were hoping it'd be the Astros, but the Astros are committed to manager Dusty Baker for next year. After that … never say never.

Shortly after getting the Astros ax, Hinch went on MLB TV and apologized for his role in the Astros cheating scandal. Although baseball's investigation said the garbage can banging scheme was "with the exception of (Astros coach Alex) Cora, player-driven and player-executed," Hinch took responsibility as manager and didn't challenge his punishment. No players were punished.

"I still feel responsible and will always feel responsible as the man out front," Hinch said. "As the leader, I was in charge of the team. I put out a statement to apologize. But there is something different to doing it on camera and putting a face to an apology, and saying I'm sorry to the league, to baseball, to fans, to players, to the coaches.

"It happened on my watch. I'm not proud of that. I'll never be proud of it. I didn't like it. But I have to own it. And the commissioner's office made very, very clear that the GM and the manager were in position to make sure that nothing like this happened. And we fell short."

In effect, while Hinch didn't authorize or participate in the sign-stealing scandal, he didn't do enough (really anything) to stop it. He is the rare case of being a guilty bystander.

To be clear, Hinch has not been offered the Detroit manager job. However, he has more experience and more wins under his belt than most of the other candidates being considered.

Hinch's reputation is blemished, but his credentials can't be disputed. During his five years as Astros manager, the team never had a losing season, won 100 or more games three times, including a team record 107 wins last year, made the playoffs three times and won a World Series.

Has baseball forgiven Hinch, and does he deserve another chance to manage in the big leagues? This is America, the land of forgiveness and second chances.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

Hinch knew his team was cheating and didn't do enough to stop it. There's no defense for that. But I think he's paid enough of a price to get back in baseball.

Mike Tyson raped a woman, went to jail, and now he's practically America's sweetheart. Hillary forgave Bill. We not only forgave Confederate leaders, we built schools and statues to honor them. Martha Stewart went to jail for insider trading, now she's back on TV baking crumpets. Ozzy Osbourne was arrested for pee'ing on a monument outside the Alamo, there is no more sacred place in Texas, and now he sells out concerts at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

Pee-wee Herman, well, let's not say what he was caught doing, but he's planning to tour the U.S. celebrating the 35th anniversary of Pee-wee's Big Adventure movie.

Remember, Hinch was suspended for a year. It could have been worse. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to ban people for life. Since becoming the commish, Manfred has permanently banished two people: former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa for hacking into the Astros computer database, and former Atlanta Braves general manager, John Coppolella for signing international players illegally.

Manfred also has temporarily banned Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman for shouting inappropriate comments at female reporters last year. Taubman is eligible to apply for reinstatement after this year's World Series. However, if he commits one more violation of baseball rules, he will be banned for life.

Lifetime bans aren't as unusual as you might think. Since baseball's beginnings in the 1800s, dozens of players, managers and team owners have been banned, mostly, like Pete Rose and the Chicago Black Sox, for gambling-related offenses.

A.J. Hinch copped to his crime, suffered the consequences, now it's time for him to manage a baseball team again. It's not like he'd be landing a plum job with Detroit. The Tigers are out of this year's playoff picture. They lost 114 games last season. And were 64-98 the two years prior. Managing the Tigers will be punishment enough.

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