Updated May 17, 2014 - 3:53 pm
D-backs take important first step with hiring of Tony La Russa
The hiring of Tony La Russa as the Chief of Baseball Operations opens up an enormous amount of possibilities.
Change is coming to the Arizona Diamondbacks but who should be the one to implement those changes? Why not bring in a Hall of Famer to facilitate the change?
Derrick Hall has done just that. Hall is an excellent businessman. He's a great baseball businessman. There's a line though. He's a baseball "lifer" but not a baseball "guy" in the sense of people that are directly responsible for wins and losses on the field. He's just hired Tony La Russa to fill in that gap.
The D-backs did not want to make a knee-jerk reaction to a poor start this year, so Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson have remained on the staff. The players responded in a decent manner on the last road trip but it wasn't enough. The wheels were turning weeks ago for a dramatic move and today that move was announced. Although the road trip through San Diego, Milwaukee and Chicago was productive, it wasn't enough. Returning home with the bullpen blow-up against Washington did not start the wind of change, it only solidified what had already begun.
Firing Towers this close to the draft might be a tall order. It still might happen but with a baseball guy in place between Towers and Hall, it's clear that any trades or decisions made for the future will be approved by La Russa. La Russa can evaluate the baseball people under Towers and decide how long the "current future" should remain between now and when draft decisions are made. Towers is a great professional and a wonderful amateur talent evaluator so there won't be any "mixed agendas" even though Towers will now his days are numbered. Towers will have a voice at the table so you can still use his knowledge but La Russa will be the one held accountable for future moves.
Once change occurs at the GM spot, the team won't be in a rush to hire a GM because La Russa can handle the duties for now. La Russa's primary job will be in hiring the next manager for Arizona. He might hire himself. He might hire a completely inexperienced manager with no coaching experience but be the mentor to help the new hire. He might hire someone he's worked with for years like a Jose Oquendo.
It's perfect because when Towers and Gibson are let go, it will be as a tandem. Instead of hiring a GM first and simply bringing up someone from the minors as an interim manager while the new GM looks for a permanent replacement for Gibson, La Russa can focus on hiring the right manager first with little rush as Towers and Gibson continue in their roles.
After the manager is hired, La Russa could hire a young gun from the Cardinals that impressed him, just like the Astros did. He could watch other teams draft and pillage an organization who comes out of the 2014 draft strong. In La Russa's role with MLB, I'm sure he met with team executives who gave up intelligence on different people in their organization that were impressive. Now, La Russa will research those names with little pressure to act.
One baseball insider told me, "This is an important first step."
Towers and Gibson will be let go because some of the players that Towers brought in were proven to be mentally weak. Gibson hasn't been able to hold players accountable as many thought he could. The players have been better in May but not good enough to account for the last 2 years and one month of baseball. As these two men eventually walk out the door, the players shouldn't watch them leave. Trevor Cahill, Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Brandon McCarthy, Cody Ross (to a lesser extent), Addison Reed, Joe Thatcher, the 2013 version of Miguel Montero and Heath Bell should look in the mirror, instead.
The hiring of Tony La Russa will not save 2014 but the Arizona Diamondbacks are a much better organization today than they were yesterday. The results on the field will bear that out in the years ahead.
Doug Franz, Co-host of Doug & Wolf