I suppose as this ‘Phillies 50’ series on the most random players from each of the 1971-2019 versions of the team moves along we will occasionally reach a fairly well-known name. Such is the case with the 2004 position player in the series.
A.J. Hinch has been a manager in Major League Baseball for seven seasons. He guided the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009-10 and then for the last five years was the manager of the Houston Astros.
Under Hinch, the Astros grew into a baseball power over the last three seasons as they won 311 regular season games, three consecutive AL West Division crowns, two American League pennants, and a world title. The team registered 103 and 107-win totals in the last two seasons, setting a new Houston franchise record each time.
Hinch led the club to the 2017 World Series championship, the first-ever in franchise history. That was followed by appearances in the ALCS in 2018 and then back to the Fall Classic last year where they were defeated in seven games by the Washington Nationals.
Caught up in the Houston sign-stealing scandal, Hinch was suspended back in January along with GM Jeff Luhnow for one year by Major League Baseball. That same day, Houston owner Jim Crane fired both men.
While it was known that Hinch did not endorse the sign-stealing operation and had, in fact, destroyed a couple of cameras being used in the operation during the 2017 season, Crane stated that “Neither one of them started this but neither one of them did anything about it.” Crane said that he was going beyond MLB’s sanctions because he had “higher standards for the city and the franchise.”
Before his managerial successes and ultimate downfall, Hinch appeared in seven MLB seasons, mostly as a backup catcher. Drafted three times, he was the Oakland A’s third round pick in 1996 out of Stanford University.
Hinch became the Athletics starting catcher as a rookie in 1998, but split the job with two others the following year and then lost it to Ramon Hernandez by 2000. In January 2001, Hinch was sent to the Kansas City Royals as part of a three-team, seven-player deal that also included the Tampa Bay Rays.
After appearing in 117 games with the Royals over the 2001-02 campaigns, Hinch was released. He signed with the Cleveland Indians in December 2002 but was then purchased by the Detroit Tigers near the end of spring training in 2003. After appearing in 27 games with Detroit that year he became a free agent.
In January 2004 the Phillies signed him, and Hinch would appear in 162 games with the Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre affiliates over the 2004-05 seasons. In 2004 he would make his final big-league appearances after being promoted when rosters expanded that September.
Todd Pratt got the start for a Wednesday afternoon game at Great American Ball Park vs the host Cincinnati Reds on September 15, 2004. However, in the bottom of the first both he and starting first baseman Jim Thome were knocked out of the game after colliding on a pop-up. Thome was replaced by Ryan Howard and Pratt by Hinch, the latter for his Phillies debut.
Hinch went 1-5 that day, contributing an 8th inning double as the Phillies romped to a 9-1 victory. Three days later he drew his lone start in a Phillies uniform and again went 1-5, this time in a 14-inning loss to the Montreal Expos at Citizens Bank Park.
He would go 0-1 at the plate over two more late September games after entering both as a late-inning defensive replacement. In all, Hinch slashed .182/.182/.273 with two hits, the one double, and one runs scored over 11 plate appearances across four games with the 2004 Phillies.
After spending the 2005 season at Triple-A, Hinch retired. The Dbacks hired him for 2006 to help run their minor league organization and three years later as their manager. Turning just 46 years old next month, it’s hard to believe that some organization won’t give him another shot down the road.
“It happened on my watch,” Hinch said per Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times back in February. “I’m not proud of that. I’ll never be proud of it. I didn’t like it, but I have to own it, because in a leadership position, the GM and the manager are in position to make sure that nothing like this happened, and we fell short. … I should have had a meeting, addressed it and ended it.”
My bet would be that Hinch gets another shot at such a leadership position again one day, and that will take on that opportunity with far more confidence in handling any potentially controversial situation that may develop.