Hinch's leadership won over Byrnes
D-backs GM trumpets unconventional manager choice
PHOENIX -- Josh Byrnes knew there would be skepticism about his decision to replace manager Bob Melvin with A.J. Hinch, a man with no managerial or coaching experience at any level.Before any questions could be asked at the news conference to announce Hinch's hiring, the D-backs' general manager launched into a spirited defense of his selection. "A.J. Hinch," Byrnes began. "Why so unconventional? Why did we choose A.J.? I'll be happy to answer that. " Hinch, who received a contract that runs through 2012, is a former big league catcher who moved from the playing field into the front office as the D-backs' player development director in 2006. When talking about what made Hinch his choice, Byrnes referred to his wide breadth of experience that includes knowledge of what goes on in the front office as well as on the field. At 34 -- he turns 35 next week -- Hinch is the youngest manager in the big leagues. "I understand the enormity of the job," he said. "I have a lot to learn. I have a lot of respect for managers throughout the game and what they have gone through, what they have done in this game. With that, I'm going to take the experiences that I've had on the field and off the field with people and try to make us a champion." The one thing Hinch lacks is actual on-field managing or coaching experience, and that has raised some eyebrows around baseball. An All-American at Stanford, Hinch has been respected for his intelligence both as a player and a front-office executive. "He's never done a double-switch before," Byrnes said. "He knows what it looks like. He'll figure it out. He brings unique leadership and perspective to the job. We're not here to reinvent the wheel. But to change the nature of the job, a little bit? OK, we'll do that. A.J. is a leader and connects with people and gets why things are done and obviously is in one of the most prominent spots in our organization. "They might not feel A.J.'s experience yet, but they're going to feel his advocacy." Hinch also brings to the job a connection with the team's younger players, some of whom are struggling. As farm director, he dealt with players like Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds, Chris Young and Justin Upton as they advanced through the system. The D-backs are hoping that familiarity will allow him to get the young guys playing better. One of the criticisms that Melvin received particularly from fans, was that he was too laid back in his demeanor. Hinch, though, is somewhat similar in personality. "To say that I'm a volatile guy would be inaccurate, but I wear my emotion," Hinch said. "People generally know where I stand and what I'm about. I'm very direct with how I handle things. I'm very strong-willed in decisions that are made. I obviously take a step back and observe the decisions and learn from them. I think players probably catch on to attitude more than they do actions sometimes, in terms of throwing your hat down, turning over a table, throwing a water cooler." Byrnes referred to changing the "vibe" in the clubhouse with the move. "There's managers we've admired who sort of give the vibe that this is going to work because we think it will work," Byrnes said. "I don't think we gave off the vibe that this will work." There was a feeling that Melvin began to chafe more and more at the constant front-office input into lineups and playing time. It figures that Hinch will be more receptive to it. Hinch played for managers Art Howe, Tony Muser and Tony Pena, among others, but said most of the way he goes about his current job will come from current Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "He was terrific," Hinch said. "His belief system, his can-do attitude. Now I've got to find a way to manage against Charlie Manuel in a few weeks and beat him. I respect his approach and have enjoyed taking that from him and look forward to implementing that in my style." Hinch's biggest challenge -- other than gaining the respect of the players -- will be trying to find a way to improve the team's offense, which ranked next-to-last in the National League in runs scored heading into Friday's action. "I think this team certainly has all facets working at different times," Hinch said. "We have some speed. We have power. I probably am more into action-type things, starting runners, hit-and-runs, things that put pressure on the defense."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.