A.J. Hinch: Transcendent Thinker

MANAGER A.J. HINCH HOUSTON ASTROS AT SABR, 1/16/2017 Photo by Mike McCroskey

MANAGER A.J. HINCH
HOUSTON ASTROS
AT SABR, 1/16/2017
Photo by Mike McCroskey

Houston Astros Manager A.J. Hinch was guest speaker last night at our January 16, 2017 first monthly meeting of the Larry Dierker SABR Chapter. 52 members attended the dinner meeting at the Spaghetti Western Restaurant on Shepherd, south of I-10, and none were disappointed.

Hinch was a delight. Speaking and answering questions about “managing” and the team, he never tired – or showed it. If anything, he seemed to energize with far-ranging comment on his experience as a manager, including one moment when he used a giant python to help loosen up a couple of people that we shall leave on the anonymous side of our report here. After an hour and a half of thoughtful, never mean, and always caring stories, we could not even hope to recapture everything you missed if you were not there. What came through like the blue sky on the heels of a rainy day was a man of great intellect, humor, experience, and passion for the game of baseball.

Baseball is Organic

“Baseball is constantly changing,” Hinch duly noted. “The game you see today is not the same as the one played even twenty years ago. It’s that dynamic.” Hinch’s appreciation for baseball as an organic, always evolving culture was impressive in itself. – Look, tic-tak-toe is a game. There’s only one way to play it. It’s always been that way. And always will be. Baseball on the other hand, is a humanly created adversarial culture with uncounted different ways to play any situation that arises – and all are subject to the variant strategies of the two club managers and the variant skills of their players. Hinch didn’t say that, but it was obvious he understands it. – And like all things invented by humans with choices built into the culture, baseball is organic.

Passion for the Game

The Hinch kid who grew up in Oklahoma has loved the game forever. He followed the call of his passion through years of youth ball, amateur play, college ball at Stanford, and then, on to the pros and some time as a major league catcher. He is self-deprecating about his modest statistical achievements as a player, but, if anyone needs a reminder, the great Earl Weaver never made it out of the minors with poor stats, but with a mind and temperament for managing at the MLB level that proved to be his yellow brick road to the Hall of Fame over time. As a still young manager, A.J. Hinch has the passion hunger for winning at levels much higher than he so far has achieved at the helm.

Transcendence as a Powerful Notion

Hinch’s words simply heated up the pot on thins I’ve believed for a very long time about winning. And he expressed much of the same support for the things I shall now write about here in my own words.

The 1939 New York Yankees finished their AL season with a 1st place record of 106-45, another pennant, of course, and a four-game sweep of the NL Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. Had Yankees manager Joe McCarthy instead managed the last place St. Louis Browns in 1939, he would have had his own run with a club that finished  in the 8th place AL cellar with a 43-111 record under Fred Haney. Could McCarthy have fared better with the ’39 Browns? Maybe. – Could McCarthy have beaten out his old ’39 Yankees club for the World Series title,  had the baseball gods aligned his career that way? No sanely probable way. Even if Joe McCarthy were a transcendent leader, he would not have had the other aspects of transcendence working for him to make it happen.

And beyond the obvious talent differential that existed between the 1939 Yankees and Browns, what’s a more complete answer as to why manager Joe McCarthy himself would not have been enough change to make a total difference in the fate of St. Louis’s AL club that season? – Of course, it’s obvious too. One great manager is never going to override an almost total absence of skill and talent on his club player roster. Casey Stengel put it best for us. In so many words, he often said that “nobody thought I was special when I managed Brooklyn and Boston (NL) back in the 1930s. I had to take over as manager of the Yankees for the world to find out that I was a genius.”

Transcendence  is an operational energy fueling idea. It is the movement of energy toward a higher level of attainment and achievement – or also to a complimentary horizontal level of improvement that makes winning in baseball on that higher level more probable – and more assured – and more frequent – if its fragile balance can be sustained. We choose to think of the high octane version of this energy fuel as the Six Transcendent “T” Word Phrases that define them all collectively as the Path to Baseball’s Treasure Island.

The Six Transcendence “T” Phrase Qualities  That Comprise the High Octane Fuel of a World Series Champion

 

SABR's Bob Dorrill Greets All Photo by Mike McCroskey

SABR’s Bob Dorrill Greets All
Photo by Mike McCroskey

  1. Transcendent Player Talent. During the reserve clause era, the Yankees took World Series victories to a dynastic level that we probably will never see again. In the evolving free agency world, the availability of big money from more clubs can break up any would-be dynasty pretty
    A.J. Hinch Awaits Introduction Photo by Mike McCroskey

    A.J. Hinch Awaits Introduction
    Photo by Mike McCroskey

    quickly.

  2. Transcendent Leadership. From ownership through the field manager, people are on-board with winning the World Series as their primary goal – even through the organization’s personnel at every level of the team’s minor league organization, winning the biggest prize that is before their noses is what they all strive to do. The view spreads to plans for scouting, spending, planning, even to using analytics in the evaluation of player needs and signings. No one is here simply to finish in the black at the gate by stringing the fans along as the primary goal. The club expects to state seasonal goals that all aim at winning a World Series at the earliest realistic moment.
  3. Transcendent Team Chemistry. The players and other personnel do not show up for work as though they had just signed up for a day job at an independent contract labor pool. The players, especially, form an energy bond as a team that frees them to be helpful to others in filling all of the less obvious needs the club recognizes as vital to activating team leadership on the field and in the clubhouse among the players. It’s like an always slightly different crossword puzzle. The goal is always about finding the best ways these particular players work together transcendentally for the sake of bringing about the team’s goal of winning it all together, one day at a time.
  4. Transcendent Spiritual Hunger. It is the hunger for something much larger than money, attention, adornment, or adoration. It is the heart for fulfilling the hope that we shall truly do and be – all those things our passions say are possible from our dedication to the quest, whatever it may be.
  5. Transcendent Work Ethic.  It is the invisible, but powerful wrench of our soul that allows us to grind out the basics of playing our position, on and off the field, at the highest levels possible for us. It is the same kind of dedication to the idea that none of us ever stand still on the page that measures how we are doing our jobs. We are organic too – and that’s forever in this life as well. The need doesn’t stop when one becomes a “superstar”. – We are always either getting better – or getting worse. On that level, we are all partners in grinding at things, including injuries and player mechanical hitches, to make the best of “getting better” possible for as long as the last word applies to us as an organic possibility.
  6. Transcendent Good Luck. We absolutely have no control over the appearance of good or bad misfortune, but the World Series has been lost by dropped fly balls, pebbles that turned ground balls into game-losing hits by the opposition, and the names Steve Bartman (Cubs fan) and Bill Buckner (Red Sox 1st baseman) , for example, will be associated with that level of notoriety forever. On the other hand, any team’s bad luck is the other team’s good fortune. And, in the case of the 1914 Boston Braves – the so-called “Miracle Braves” – there does seem to have been a large serving of good fortune bestowed upon a club that went from last place in the NL at mid-summer to the winner of the World Series that fall- and it was definitely a breakthrough in transcendent improvements in several areas. Luck may have been the smallest and most immeasurable and unpreventable transcendent factor in this case – and most cases – of surprise winning, but it’s there. And we all know it. Even if we still curse it when it seems to work against us.

 

sabr-hinch

SABR Chapter Meeting Spaghetti Western Ristorante Houston, 1/16/2017 Photo by Mike McCroskey

Summary

A club doesn’t have to have all of the six transcendent ingredients going for them to win a World Series, but it’s probably fair to say that having only one of these major elements kicking in by itself is never enough to make up for the absence of everything else. In our view, it most often takes a smattering of some transcendent input for each or most areas to work for any given season that a World Series is won, even if it is never repeated. In today’s culture too, it is unlikely that transcendent winning by any single team has a chance to survive like any of the famous Yankee era clubs. As we stated earlier, there’s too much going on out there in this free agency era to allow that to happen.

A.J. Hinch

Houston Astros Manager A.J. Hinch didn’t use all of the language here to describe his own viewpoint, but I was totally convinced by everything we heard from him that he would support these ideas completely, had we had the time to discuss this model last night. In fact, I made eye contact with him while making some post-A.J. Hinch Speach comments about ascendant and horizontal transcendence energy factors on the leadership level and his expression alone told me that he both understood and embraced support for the same ideas. In the end, he would have to speak for himself in that regard. All I know is that last night before SABR, he turned out to be everything I thought he would be – and a guy with a great sense of humor as well.

Houston is lucky to have A.J. Hinch on board. – Keep on transcending, A.J.!

____________________

eagle-0range
 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

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One Response to “A.J. Hinch: Transcendent Thinker”

  1. bobcopus Says:

    It was a great SABR meeting and AJ was a delight.

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