When the Arizona Diamondbacks brought in Tony La Russa to evaluate the organization’s baseball operations, as chief baseball officer, many assumed the writing was on the wall for top-level officials.
General manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson were in danger of losing their jobs, the narrative went, now that a new sheriff was in town.
But La Russa’s very approach and purpose may have the much-maligned duo on solid ground, according to one analyst.
A guest of Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian offered some secondhand insight into La Russa’s mission in the Valley.
“I was just in St. Louis the other night, and I checked around with some people there about Tony — and they know him really well there, of course — and I was convinced by the end of the night that Tony is on a crusade here to turn the Diamondbacks into a really good club and he’s going to do it the old-fashioned way,” he retold. “As opposed to the new way, with sabermetrics and everything else.”
Kurkjian said this approach was a primary tenet of La Russa’s reason for joining the organization. It’s not just a matter of improvement — by any means — but it’s a matter of making a point while doing as much.
“He’s going to show everybody that he and Jim Leyland and people like them can still run a club and do it the way it’s supposed to be done,” Kurkjian explained.
“That’s his new crusade that he’s on now. And if that’s the case, Kevin Towers is still, at least to me, an old school guy. That’s why I think Kevin Towers has a chance to stay.”
Both Towers and La Russa have been fairly outspoken about what they perceive to be an overemphasis on sabermetrics in modern baseball. They both have gone on record as advocates of retaliation tactics. And they both have placed a lot of importance on the work of scouts.
“I still think they need to evaluate this whole situation, with Tony on top, for the rest of the year, see where they are, and then make their decisions,” Kurkjian went on to note.
Earlier Wednesday, Towers reported that his conversations with La Russa thus far have all been positive. Gibson said as much over the weekend, saying the two have had productive conversations about strategy.
Both the GM and manager are regarded around baseball as belonging of the “old school” camp, like La Russa.
“This is still an evolving story and it doesn’t mean those guys are safe because they’re tough guys and Tony loves those guys.”