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Byrnes the tie that binds Hinch, Roberts

October 26, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- A lot has been said and written this week about the relationship between Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and Astros skipper A.J. Hinch, but at the nexus of it all is Josh Byrnes, the Dodgers' senior vice president of baseball operations.Byrnes moved Hinch out of the D-backs' front

LOS ANGELES -- A lot has been said and written this week about the relationship between Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and Astros skipper A.J. Hinch, but at the nexus of it all is Josh Byrnes, the Dodgers' senior vice president of baseball operations.
Byrnes moved Hinch out of the D-backs' front office to the dugout in 2009 in what turned out to be a highly controversial and unpopular move. When Byrnes went to the Padres as assistant general manager under Jed Hoyer -- later replacing Hoyer -- he took Hinch along with him. And when Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was looking for a manager in 2015, Hinch came with the highest recommendations from his buddy Byrnes.
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"If I didn't have that experience in Arizona, if Josh didn't believe in me in the first place, before his time, before it was cool to have no experience and come into this job, I wouldn't be here today. So I'm indebted to Josh for that belief," Hinch said this week as the Astros and Dodgers battled to a 1-1 tie in the World Series.
Likewise, Byrnes and Roberts go back to when the two were together in the Cleveland organization. It was 1998 and Roberts was a Minor League outfielder just traded by the Tigers to the Indians. Byrnes was in the scouting department. Roberts ultimately played 10 big league seasons and batted .266 with 243 stolen bases.
Their career trajectory extended to Boston, where in 2004, Roberts stole the most famous base in Red Sox history in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. The comeback in that game ignited Boston back from a 3-0 deficit to win the pennant and, ultimately, the World Series for the first time in 86 years.
It was in San Diego where Byrnes and Roberts were together again, the latter as an infield coach and bench coach from 2010-15 under the tutelage of Bud Black, now the Rockies' manager. Hinch was the assistant GM.
"A.J. and Josh have a long history, obviously," Roberts said. "So our little circle, we've forged a nice relationship among us."

That relationship paid huge dividends. After Byrnes landed in Los Angeles under Andrew Friedman, the club's new president of baseball operations, Byrnes was an integral force in the hiring of Roberts to replace the departed Don Mattingly.
These are the ties that bind in Major League Baseball. And the three are together again in this World Series, a circle that Roberts said is "interwoven."
"They're great people. They're great baseball men," Byrnes said. "At every turn, they wanted more, added more responsibility. I'm really happy they're both here. I'm really happy for them as friends first. But they've risen to the challenge of these jobs and they've done great jobs."
Byrnes was in his first tour as a GM of the D-backs in 2009 when he went way outside the box to replace the highly popular Bob Melvin just 29 games into that season with a guy who'd never managed, even at the Little League level.
Hinch was a backup catcher with a Stanford pedigree, but he had managed a .219/.280/.356 slash line in seven big league seasons, ending in 2004. At the time of the hiring, Hinch was Arizona's little-known director of Minor League operations.
The move lasted little more than a year. Byrnes and Hinch were dismissed on July 1, 2010, when Hinch had an 89-123 record.
Still, Byrnes and Melvin had little rapport and Byrnes wanted a manager on the same page. It's the norm now in the Majors, but eight years ago, Byrnes was definitely way ahead of the curve.
"We knew we had to win back then, but the whole intent of it was to establish these types of dynamics," Byrnes said. "I think that's the way it is everywhere in baseball now. The front office, the manager, the coaches and the players are largely on the same page. There's a lot of communication. There's a lot of idea sharing. And decisions are born out of that process."
It's certainly the way the Astros and Dodgers handle it. There's a base of analytics, but both Hinch and Roberts have to sell those concepts inside the clubhouse. They also are the daily purveyors of all that to the media. Winning, of course, always helps.
Managing is a multifaceted job these days, with relationships that must be built in the fan base and business community outside baseball.
"It's such a hard job," Byrnes said.
Back then, the D-backs weren't ready to fully embrace the plan. They certainly have done so now with GM Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo having just concluded a highly successful first year together doing the same things Byrnes and Hinch pioneered.
"At the time, it was unconventional and a lot of people wanted it to fail," Byrnes said about the end of his D-backs tenure. "They didn't want to accept that this is why we tried to do it in the first place. Everything's a part of that communication -- lineup cards, roster usage, trades, everything. As much as I wanted it to work, I quickly realized people didn't want to hear it."
As far as Roberts is concerned, he, Byrnes and Hinch all left the Padres in quick succession, Byrnes having been dismissed during the 2014 season. Hinch took over as interim GM, but declined to interview for the vacant GM job. He resigned and went on to manage the Astros.
When Black was dismissed early in the 2015 season, Roberts, Black's bench coach, was given the job for one game and was then replaced by Pat Murphy, also let go at the end of the '15 season.
That winter, the Padres hired Andy Green as manager. Byrnes, though, thought Roberts was the perfect person to manage the Dodgers and pitched him heavily to Friedman.
"It was really clear at the beginning of the process that he was going to be there at the end of the process," Byrnes said. "We just really thought Dave was the right fit for where we wanted to go. He's been amazing. Most important is that the players have responded. Only two years later, he's just at such a high level."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.