Baseball’s comeback kids

A pair of managers who have been wildly successful on the field, but criticized for off-field actions, are returning to the Major Leagues next season. AJ Hinch and Tony LaRussa will return to environments vastly different from when they left.



November 3, 2020 - 9:53 AM

AJ Hinch of the Houston Astros looks on during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2019 World Series. The Detroit Tigers have signed Hinch to a three-year contract as manager. Photo by Bob Levey / Getty Images / TNS

AJ Hinch and Tony La Russa are good, probably, at the jobs they were hired for. Between them, they have four World Series titles as field managers (two within the last decade), lengthy dynastic stretches of winning, and one career that was officially Hall of Fame quality. Hinch came off a suspension to run point on the Tigers’ rebuild and La Russa left retirement to rejoin the upstart White Sox.

But while “count the rings” may work for Modell’s shirseys, they can’t be the only factor in a managerial hire. We’re still living in the illegal sign-stealing epoch Hinch was centered in and temporarily dismissed from, which, again: He’s sorry about all that. Meanwhile, La Russa’s loud expressions of his personal politics, including his repeated criticisms of social justice protests, are a terrible match for a young and diverse roster. Just as Hinch said he’s learned from his mistakes, La Russa claimed he was “evolving” at his introduction. A leopard may never change its spots, so can a Cardinal change his feathers?

So, the question moves beyond their established strengths to: Are these men singularly special enough to merit one of the most coveted, selective and well-paying jobs in the world despite everything else?

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