In what has been deemed a peculiar hire by the Arizona Diamondbacks, 34-year-old A.J. Hinch is packing his brown bag lunch right now and filling his briefcase with paperwork as he prepares for his first day at his new job: Major League Baseball manager. After kicking Bob Melvin to the curb, young stud general manager Josh Byrnes obviously wanted to bring in some more young stud talent to lead a team with a flailing offense and an injured ace. But Hinch has exactly zero experience as a manager at any level, having retired from baseball less than five years ago. What gives?
Well, Hinch fits into two interesting criteria. He was a catcher, and he went to Stanford. Nearly half of all current managers, including World Series winners like Joe Torre and Mike Scioscia, were catchers during their MLB careers, and even crusty old Jim Leyland was a catcher although he never reached the bigtime. Face it, catchers are total nerds, always thinking about hitting, squatting, calling pitches, adjusting the infielders, crude insults to spew at opposing batters, and clever ruses to trick umpires into calling a strike on a curveball that dropped way out of the zone. Add in the bookish Stanford education and you've got yourself a veritable Renaissance Man of baseball-thinkery.
Of course, sometimes it just pays for a manager to be dumb so he can relate to his players better. Certain current managers seem to completely ignore any sense of academia or facts and rely on instinct and the capacity to get the most out of a player's ability. Just because Hinch is a young up-and-comer and knows the ins and outs of the entire Arizona system (he was the manager of the minor league ops) doesn't make him a true leader of men. Still, if he can figure out the intricacies of the double switch and if he can utilize his bullpen with efficiency, Hinch can help the D-Backs realize their potential. Just as long as he gets a leftfielder who can hit, that is.